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25 February 2024

Real-life rags to riches

Duncan Bannatyne (FILE)

By Sylvia Morris

Fitness tycoon Duncan Bannatyne OBE is probably better known for his role on the BBC series Dragon's Den. But the entrepreneur, who has seen poverty as a child and the inside of a military detention centre as a young man, is a serial entrepreneur who owns a chain of health clubs and hotels.

What was your first salary? I cannot remember, it was 44 years ago. I worked for six weeks as a kitchen cabinet maker in my native Clydebank, so it would not have been much.

What was your best financial move? Floating my company Quality Care Homes on the stock market. I set it up in 1987 and five years later raised £5 million (Dh25m) on the stock exchange to expand. Five years after that I sold it for £46m.

And your worst? Buying shares in the company Lady In Leisure. I lost £1.04m when it went bankrupt.

How much are you worth now? My net worth is £310m. It all started just after I bought my first home. I left my job in a bakery and bought an ice-cream van for £450. Before long, I had half-dozen vans and a turnover of £350,000 a year. I sold the business for £28,000 and then started investing in residential care homes. Before I started, I also worked as a barman, deck-chair attendant and worked in the Navy.

What did you pay for your first home? I bought it for £12,000 in 1981. It was a three-bedroom semi in Stockton-on-Tees in north England. I took out a £10,000 mortgage. I can't remember what I sold it for, but it's probably worth £250,000 now. I own three properties – my family home in the North-East; a villa in Mougins, near Cannes, France; and a flat in London's Covent Garden.

Do you prefer using a credit card or cash? Card because it is easier than carrying loads of cash. But I do carry some notes so that I can tip well when I am out. I always tip in cash and give £10 or £20 as a thank you to taxi drivers.

How many credit cards do you have in your wallet? Four. One is a company card which I use only for business. The others are personal and I have held the same ones for a few years. I pay them off every month by direct debit so as not to get caught into paying interest to the banks.

What's the biggest tip you've ever given? I always leave a good tip in cash, so it goes to the people who served me rather than pooled by the company. I tipped £100 in The Ivy restaurant in London recently – it was great as the service was so good.

The most expensive present you have ever given? That would be jewellery for my wife. I choose it myself and the most I have spent at a time is £20,000. I tend to spend £10,000 to £20,000 a time on presents for her.

What about retirement? I don't worry about money and retirement. Not just because I have money but because I don't want to retire. I love my life and what I am doing.

What charities do you support? My own charitable trust, Bannatyne Charitable Fund. Through Scottish International Relief, I support an orphanage in Romania and 20,000 children in four schools in Malawi. I set up my trust with the help of the Charities Aid Foundation.


Duncan Bannatyne

Age: 59

Sources of Income: Bannatyne, whose estimated net worth is £310 million according to The Sunday Times Rich List, began his career with an ice cream van bought for £450. He eventually sold the business for £28,000, and has run several businesses, including Quality Care Homes (sold for £46m in 1996) and nursery chain Just Learning (sold for £22m). He has six children and is married for the second time.