James Caan (entrepreneur)

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James Caan
James Caan (entrepreneur).jpg
Born Nazim Khan[1]
Urdu: جيمس خان

(1960-12-28) 28 December 1960 (age 57)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Residence London, England
Nationality Pakistani-British
Occupation Entrepreneur
Known for Business, Recruitment, Dragons' Den
Net worth £95 million[2]
Children Hannah
Website www.james-caan.com

James Caan CBE (born Nazim Khan, 28 December 1960) is a British-Pakistani entrepreneur[3] and television personality.

He is best known as a former investor on the BBC television program Dragons’ Den, in which he was one of the Dragons from 2007 to 2010. More recently, he has hosted The Business Class on CNBC, a series which sees him joined by experts from a cross section of industries to analyse and advise innovative UK small and medium enterprises.[4] He is also Chairman of the UK Government's Start Up Loans Scheme, which supports entrepreneurs with funding and mentoring to start their own business.[5]

Caan initially achieved success in the recruitment industry. He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann Group in 1985, and sold it in 2002. In 1993, Caan co-founded the executive head-hunting firm Humana International, in which he sold his stake in 1999. He is also the founder and currently CEO of the UK-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw.

In 2013, he was named Chairman of the Year at the International Business Awards.[6]

Caan has been involved in a number of charitable activities and founded the James Caan Foundation in 2006. Caan did not attend university as an undergraduate, but graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2003.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, Caan's family emigrated to the United Kingdom when he was two years old. His father came to the UK without any money or knowing the language but was able to build a successful business from scratch.[7] He subsequently established a clothing company in Brick Lane, east London. Caan's father had intended him to join the family business once his formal education was completed, but Caan decided he wanted to find his own way in the world. At 16, before he had begun his O-Levels, he left home and moved to a flat in Kensington. This led to Caan's being estranged from his father for many years.

Other than a Saturday job at Mr Buyright, Caan had no formal experience of work and so went to a recruitment agency to find some. His first job was door to door sales, which he found tiring. At this point, he knew he wanted to work in an office. He went back to the recruitment agency and asked for something that was indoors and saw a job working for Grand Metropolitan. He worked for several recruitment companies and started a fashion boutique with his wife before deciding he wanted to start his own company.[8]

Caan started his own recruitment company in the early 1980s. His first office was in Pall Mall but was so small that the door could not be fully opened as it was blocked by his desk. He tried moving the desk, to no avail.[9] He purposely chose the prestigious address to convey an image that the company was bigger than it actually was to attract clients. As he had no meeting rooms, client meetings would often take place in coffee shops, and he would tell them that they were so busy that all the rooms were full. At this time he also changed his name from Nazim Khan to James Caan after seeing a film by the famous actor and an alternative way to spell “Khan”; this also helped him in his recruitment company, as the name was more easily recognisable.[1]

Caan did not excel at school and did not attend university as an undergraduate, but graduated from the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2003.



He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann in 1987. In 1993 Caan co-founded the executive headhunting firm Humana International with Doug Bugie, eventually growing the business to over 147 offices in 30 countries. In the same year Caan launched the trade magazine Recruitment International, which he later sold in 2000. In 1996 Caan co-founded the business process outsourcing company AMS with Rosaleen Blair. Caan subsequently sold his interests in AMS in 2002. Caan sold Humana International to CDI International, a New York listed company, in 1999. Later in that year Caan sold a minority stake in Alexander Mann Group to private equity firm Advent International.

In 2002 Caan sold his interests in Alexander Mann, which by that time had a turnover of around £130m. In 2004 Caan established the London-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw. Hamilton Bradshaw is an investment group that specialises in Seed Capital and Growth Capital for recruitment businesses. Hamilton Bradshaw has invested in more than 30 portfolio businesses across 46 offices in the UK, and in 2014 reported more than £300 million in turnover.[10] Recruitment Entrepreneur is the Seed Capital arm of Hamilton Bradshaw which provides the seed funding and support for ambitious, experienced recruitment professionals to start, or scale, their own recruitment ventures.[11] Hamilton Bradshaw is registered as a UK firm.[12] In June 2013, Caan give an interview in which he criticised parents who aid their children with finding jobs and don't let them 'stand on their own two feet', he was accused of hypocrisy when it emerged that he had employed his own daughter in one of his companies.[13] Caan responded that his daughter's recruitment process had been "rigorous", and stated that the outburst around this revelation would not detract from his six-month effort to campaign for a breakdown of employment barriers.[14]

In the same year he invested in the managed office provider Avanta, which he sold three years later to the private equity company Kenmore. In 2007 Hamilton Bradshaw acquired the recruitment specialist Eden Brown and Caan sold his remaining interest in Alexander Mann Group to Graphite Private Equity in a management buy-out led by Rosaleen Blair.

In 2009 Caan launched HBRIDA, with his then business partner Helen Reynolds ( ex ACEO of the REC). HBRIDA worked with SME recruitment agencies to help them achieve growth and led them to an exit. Reynolds performed a management buyout of the business in March 2012. In 2010 Caan launched The Entrepreneurs Business Academy and became a non–Executive Director of McCaan London. In 2011 Caan founded Hamilton Bradshaw Venture Partners. In 2012/13, Caan launched Hamilton Bradshaw Real Estate (HBRE) to invest in "disruptive property start-ups".[15]

James Caan was recognised in the 2015 New Year Honours List, with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to entrepreneurship and charitable services through the James Caan Foundation.

Caan, Chairman of Start Up Loans, which has supported thousands of people with funding and mentoring to start their own business was “delighted and privileged” to receive the accolade. This award is recognition for the 23,000 new businesses set up through the scheme as well as his philanthropic work which has helped thousands since the floods hit Pakistan in July 2010.


In 2007 Caan joined the panel of Dragons' Den judges for the fifth series of the show. Hilary Devey replaced James Caan on Dragons Den in 2012.

Through his role on Dragons’ Den, Caan worked with Children in Need for many years. In 2008, Children in Need filmed a ‘Youth Dragons Den’. ‘Look for Loneliness’ was his initiative to help reduce bullying and get children to understand what it is like to feel isolated. Caan went on to work with Children in Need in 2009, helping to renovate a Community Centre for young people to visit before and after school.

In 2008, in aid of Comic Relief, Caan teamed up with the other presenters of Dragons Den for a special edition of the programme titled ‘Victorians Dragons’ Den’. In December 2009 Caan joined the Sport Relief team on a four-day trip to Kenya.

In 2012, he was approached by CNBC to host The Business Class, a series which sees him joined by experts from a cross section of industries, looking at the challenges and opportunities faced by UK SMEs. Each 30 minute episode featured an innovative business which was seeking guidance to help it grow in the market place. The popularity of the series saw it recommisioned for a second series in October 2013.[16]

In 2014 Caan joined the UKs largest business magazine Business Matters as a columnist[17]

Social media[edit]

In 2011, James Caan launched his mobile app 'James Caan Business Secrets'. Within weeks of launching the app rose to Number 1 in the iTunes chart and later became the fastest downloaded Business app of the year. It has regularly been ranked as a top business app by various publications, it has received over 250,000 downloads and has more than 1.5 million sessions.[18] In 2014, Caan relaunched the latest version of his app to include three free audiobooks as well as additional chapters with tangible advice to help people start, grow or exit businesses. It focuses on key issues such as raising finance, marketing, growth and expansion.[19]

In October 2012, James Caan was approached by LinkedIn to be one of 150 LinkedIn Influencers. By June 2014, Caan surpassed 1 million followers on LinkedIn.[20] In late June, Caan surpassed U.S. President Barack Obama and UK Prime minister David Cameron in the number of followers, making him the 7th most followed person on LinkedIn.[21] As a LinkedIn influencer, James blogs about career advice and provides tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners on growing their business and leadership.


Caan has written several books on business and his life. The first book covered his life story and was published in 2008 called 'The Real Deal - My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons' Den.' Following publications focused on business and entrepreneurship with 'Get the Job You Really Want,' 'Start Your Business in 7 Days' and most recently, 'Get the Life You Really Want.'

Public sector[edit]

Caan has been involved with the British Government and their agencies on a number of initiatives related to UK business for many years. These include The Government Entrepreneur’s Forum [22] and The Department for International Development (DFID) where he worked on the relief effort after the 2010 Pakistan flood.

The Start Up Loans Company[edit]

In May 2012, Caan was approached by the government to become Chairman of the Start Up Loans initiative. The aim is to support young people with funding and mentoring to start up new businesses in the UK. Over £112 million of loans were to be offered to 18- to 30-year-olds over a 3-year period. James and his board of entrepreneur ambassadors head up the government scheme, providing loans of around £2,500 to the 18- to 30-year-olds to start their own businesses.[23] Originally, the goal of Start Up Loans was to help 1,000 businesses obtain government and private sector investments to fund these new ventures, however as of 2014 James Caan has helped provide funding and mentorship to more than 18,000 start ups.[24]

Charitable activities[edit]

The James Caan Foundation[edit]

Caan founded the James Caan Foundation (JCF) in 2006 after he took a ‘gap year’ to visit his homeland of Pakistan.[25] The JCF supports charities in the UK and seeks to promote greater awareness of issues facing the developing world, with a primary focus on children's access to education and healthcare.

The JCF has funded the construction of a new school at his birthplace Lahore, located in the eastern province of Punjab. Since first purchasing a barren plot of land and opening the 16-classroom school in 2005, the TCF School, named after Caan’s father, educates over 420 children aged between 5-11.

2010 Pakistan floods[edit]

In July 2010, Caan flew to Pakistan immediately after the worst flooding in the country's history and personally purchased, prepared and delivered emergency food parcels to families in the Northern village of Nowshera.[26]

Upon his return to the UK Caan partnered with UNICEF to provide urgent food, medical supplies and water and hygiene kits to 1,000 families in the affected area. Caan also undertook an extensive media outreach campaign and his trip was widely covered in national newspapers. After just two weeks, Caan had raised £100,000 for UNICEF. Caan and the James Caan Foundation subsequently undertook a project to rebuild a village in Pakistan, including schools, hospitals, homes and all infrastructure and water supplies.[27] Aid agencies including UNICEF, Oxfam, Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands and Mosaic were also involved in the project.

Caan drew criticism when he was caught on camera offering to buy a baby from a family that was a victim of the 2010 Pakistan flood. Caan insisted the offer had been made with good intentions, but stated that he regretted the incident and described his behaviour as "clearly wrong".[28] Caan was later filmed saying: "If there's an opportunity to give a life a chance of survival, it's more an emotional response than a rational decision. What I have to remember is that I am here to build a village. That child belongs to that family".[29]


Caan is involved with and supports other charities including The Prince's Trust, Marie Curie, Mosaic, Care Foundation and the NSPCC. In 2009 Caan was appointed chairman of The Big Issue Company.[30]

Caan was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to entrepreneurship and charitable services.[31][32]


  • 2008 - The Real Deal (autobiography)
  • 2011 - Get the Job You Really Want
  • 2012 - Get the Life you Really Want
  • 2012 - Start Your Business in 7 Days


Awards and nominations[edit]

In January 2013, Caan was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards.[35] In January 2014, he was nominated for the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards.[36] In January 2015, he was nominated for the Businessman of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards.[37] On 29 October 2015, Caan was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 16 in the list of 100 Most Influential British Entrepreneurs.[38][39]

See also[edit]

List of British Pakistanis


  1. ^ a b James Caan, Daily Mail, 20 September 2008, "Why Dragons' Den star James Caan took out a £30k bank loan to win his wife"
  2. ^ Drake, Matthew; Yaqoob, Janine (13 February 2016). "Dragons' Den entrepreneur James Caan splits with wife after 32 year marriage". The Mirror. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  3. ^ "List of companies related to James Caan". www.cbetta.com. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  4. ^ Caan, James. "The Business Class". 
  5. ^ http://www.startuploans.co.uk/ Start Up Loans Company
  6. ^ James Caan Awarded Chairman of the Year at the 2013 International Business Awards
  7. ^ "James Caan". 
  8. ^ Caan, James (2008). The real deal: my story from Brick Lane to Dragons' Den. Virgin Books. ISBN 9781905264452. 
  9. ^ "James Caan The Dragons' Den panellist on gap years, what makes the ideal investment and his unwavering obsession with windows". Startups Awards. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Hamilton Bradshaw". Hamilton Bradshaw. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "Recruitment Entrepreneur About US". Recruitment Entrepreneur. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Ltd, DueDil (24 June 2014). "Hamilton Bradshaw Limited". DueDil. London. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  13. ^ Walker, Peter (5 June 2013). "James Caan: social mobility tsar denies nepotism but employs his daughter". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  14. ^ [TV experts turned tsars: How did they do?|http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22716241]
  15. ^ Looking for the next Rightmove: PrimeResi meets Faisal Butt, property’s venture capitalist with the Caan-do attitude | PrimeResi
  16. ^ CNBC (3 October 2013). "James Caan To Host Business Series On CNBC To Help SMEs". 
  17. ^ "James Caan, Columnist at". 
  18. ^ "James Caan mentors 1m on LinkedIn". [ [Recruitment International] ]. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "James Caan Business Secrets". [ [itunes.apple.com] ]. 8 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "What I Learned From My First Million LinkedIn Followers". [ [Hootsuite] ]. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  21. ^ "LinkedIn Influencer List". [ [LinkedIn.com] ]. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  22. ^ "UK government creates Entrepreneurs' Forum advisory board". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  23. ^ "Start-up loans scheme expanded". BBC News. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  24. ^ "Start-up loans scheme about us". Start Up Loans Scheme. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  25. ^ "James Caan: 'If anyone wasn't going to make it then I should have topped that list!'". Asian Image. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "James Caan: the Dragon humbled by Pakistan floods disaster". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 August 2010. 
  27. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20100212191909/http://www.hellomagazine.com/magazine/. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "BBC News - Dragon James Caan 'regrets offer to buy baby'". Daily Record. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  29. ^ "Dragons' Den tycoon James Caan apologises after trying to buy baby on TV". Daily Record. 23 October 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  30. ^ "James Caan appointed chairman of The Big Issue". Growing Business. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  31. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N8. 
  32. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List Archived 2 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ "James Caan awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of East London". The Richest. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  34. ^ [1][dead link]
  35. ^ "Winners honoured at British Muslim Awards". Asian Image. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  36. ^ "British Muslim Awards 2014 winners". Asian Image. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  37. ^ "British Muslim Awards 2015 finalists unveiled". Asian Image. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  38. ^ "Teenage apprentice aged 17 ranked with Lord Sugar and Sir Richard Branson as top entrepreneur". Mirror. Retrieved 29 January 2016. 
  39. ^ "British Entrepreneurs Top 100: From Lord Sugar to Victoria Beckham, These Are the Most Influential Entrepreneurs in the UK". Richtopia. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 

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