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DRAGONS' CON
[September 17, 2006]

DRAGONS' CON


(Sunday Mirror Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) HIT TV show Dragons' Den is today branded a sham - where most of the winners never receive a penny.

The super-rich Dragons pledge tens of thousands of pounds to struggling entrepreneurs to help their businesses.

But a Sunday Mirror investigation reveals how 13 of the 19 contestants promised cash on the BBC show have not received any. The total amount unpaid comes to almost pounds 1.3MILLION.

In the meantime many of their businesses have floundered.

Today furious contestants lift the lid on what really happens - or doesn't happen - when the cameras stop rolling. We can reveal how:

Charles Ejogo was promised pounds 150,000 towards his umbrella vending machine but said: "I never saw a penny - but I wasn't alone."

Furious Tracie Herrtage, who plunged into pounds 10,000 debt when her cash never arrived for her hammock bed idea, said: "It was a farcical rollercoaster."

Danny Bamping decided to pull out when he claimed the Dragons turned on each other over his puzzle idea. He said: "They couldn't stand each other."

And Gary Taylor, despite being the biggest ever winner, pulled out of his truck valet deal blasting: "The show's just an ego boost for the judges."

The revelations will shock viewers who have made Dragons' Den such a hit that it is now in its third series. The show - which sees millionaires grill entrepreneurs and then pledge cash for their projects - is watched by up to five million every Thursday night.



Dragons Theo Paphitis, Duncan Bannatyne, Richard Farleigh, Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden have been catapulted to stardom as the big investors.

The winning contestants expect a meeting afterwards to discuss their deals in more detail and sign a contract... but their wealthy new backers often slip into their chauffeur-driven cars and drive off without a word.


The brash Dragons suddenly become very difficult to contact and cash promises are broken, according to winners.

Charles Ejogo, the first winner of series one in 2004, said: "The show gives the impression that winners get offered cash as soon as the programme ends. The reality is totally different." The 30- year-old from Fulham, London, wowed the judges with his mobile umbrella vending machine.

Dragons Peter and Duncan pledged to plough pounds 150,000 into the Umbrolly and Charles shook hands on a deal. But within three months, the deal was off. He said: "Duncan never rang but we exchanged emails. I had an agreement with London Underground to put the Umbrolly machines in stations. But because I only had a small amount of capital I decided to focus the first machines in the North of England where we would make more cash. Duncan didn't like it so he was out.

"There was an excuse made that perhaps I was not 100 per cent accurate in the information I gave but I have watched it back and I was. Then Peter pulled out too. I know from speaking to other contestants I was not the only one."

Last night the Dragons defended their record. Duncan Bannatyne said: "We don't hand over money to people who don't tell the truth."

Theo Paphitis added: "I kept up my end of the bargain. The show is not about a cash prize, it is about us pledging to invest. But people must tell the truth. Simple."

A BBC spokesman said: "After the initial agreement is made on camera, both parties enter a period of due diligence. Sometimes during this period the deals fall through."

JULIE WHITE

Party planner (pounds 75K)

IN Series 2, Julie impressed the Dragons with her baby party planning company Truly Madly, Baby. But she is still waiting to hear from Dragon Peter Jones a YEAR after he pledged pounds 75,000.

Mum Julie, 37, says she never saw Peter after the show.

She discussed the deal with "his people" bu t in January this year, six months after filming, she found a new investor. She emailed Peter to tell him the deal was off - but got no response

She said: "He didn't have time to meet me. I was disappointed."

Julie now has 80 consultants hosting parties across the UK and a lucrative online shopping business.

PETTY BROTHERS

iVCam (pounds 25K)

JUDGES Doug Richards and Peter Jones pledged pounds 25,000 for a 15 per cent share in Phillip and John's industrial measuring gadget iVCam.

But three months after filming, the Pettys couldn't contact their millionaire investors, despite calling the BBC for help.

John, 57, said:

"Eventually we had a few meetings with the Dragons but progress was slow and it just petered out. It would have been a different business if they were with us, we'd be selling the product faster."

The BBC said the Dragons were considering licensing the technology rather than manufacturing the product, so the deal fell through.

PAUL COCKLE

'Circus' (pounds 160K)

PAUL is still waiting to finalise his pounds 160,000 deal with Dragons Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones...18 months after being offered the money in the second series for his circus, The Generating Company.

The London entrepreneur, 47 - who agreed to give them a 40 per cent stake - warned future contestants: "It's not as easy as walking off with the cash. It's not just the dragons' fault - there are a series of legal complications including turning the company from a not-for-profit into a share ownership."

Meanwhile Paul's circus now employs 50 artists.

GARY TAYLOR

Truck valet (pounds 200K)

GARY was offered pounds 200,000 by Theo and Deborah in the 3rd series in exchange for a 40 per cent stake in his motorway truck cleaning firm Alpine Cleaning Services.

But the deal was never signed. Three months after filming Gary, 38, grew fed up with waiting for the cash and took out a bank loan instead.

He said: "I spoke to Deborah twice, so I told the BBC I would be turning down the deal. I have no regrets, I'm doing really well by myself. Dragon's Den is an ego boost show for the judges to hype their profiles."

Paphitis said he kept up his end of the deal. Deborah said: "Sometimes deals break down - it's business."

JAMES SEDDON

Egg cooker (pounds 75K)

THREE months after shaking on a pounds 75,000 investment from Richard and Peter, progress remains "slow" on James' EggXactly waterless egg cooker and nothing is official.

But the computer software expert is hoping to get his product out by Easter.

He said: "I had a meeting with the two Dragons straight after the show. Since then I've had one phone call from Richard. I suppose they are very busy men."

James is now spending pounds 75,000 of his own money. He hopes the Dragons' investment will be available soon to help meet production, marketing and distribution costs.

NICK & PADDY

'Snowbone' (pounds 75K)

NICK Rawcliffe and Paddy Radcliffe were offered a deal with Rachel Elnaugh, but it collapsed just months after they appeared on the first series of the show.

Rachel offered pounds 75,000 for an equal share in their company producing snowboard "handlebars" but were left with nothing when her own business went into liquidation.

Disappointed Paddy, 35, said: "It star ted out relatively well and then petered out.

"Rachel covered costs of about pounds 2,000 towards a prototype and website. It was very informal. No deal was ever signed.

"Anyway, life goes on - and we do have some potential investors now."

DAVID LEES

TV stand (pounds 225K)

DAVE pulled out of the Dragons' offer of 50 per cent equity in his plasma TV stands firm because it took too long to agree and sign an agreement. David had shaken on a pounds 225,000 offer with and Duncan and Theo in the second series, but by the time the three had the deal ready to sign, it was too late.

He explained: "It took more than six months to get a document from them that we all agreed on.

"By that time, the business had come together and we didn't need the investment.

"We are doing really well without them now and last year we hit our pounds 500,000 target."

PAUL THOMAS

Truffles (pounds 75K)

PAUL won pounds 75,000 from Simon for a 25 per cent share in his black truffle farm on the first series.

But Paul, 30, from Sheffield turned down the deal after realising he could run his gourmet food business alone.

Paul also felt that Simon's idea to introduce merchandise to promote the mushroom farms didn't suit his plans.

He said: "Simon was really very keen to do the deal. He was keen for a clothing line and books and stationery. It wasn't necessarily what we had in mind.

"I then sought a second opinion. We are now financing it ourselves - there were other ways of running the business without an investor."

TRACIE HERRTAGE

Hammock Bed (pounds 54K)

TRACIE was offered pounds 54,000 in the first series by Rachel Elnaugh for a 49 per cent stake in her hammock bed "Le Beanock". But single mum Tracie says she ended up pounds 10,000 in debt because the lump sum never materialised and the deal was never signed.

She says Rachel - whose Red Letter Day firm went into liquidation 10 months after filming in July 2005 - spent pounds 10,000 on a website and pounds 4,000 on a stand at the Good Home Show but that was it. She said: "I had overdrafts because the bank thought, and I was told, I was going to get that money as a lump sum. The BBC vets every contestant after the show before a deal is confirmed. Why don't they vet the dragons?"

A spokesman for Elnaugh said: "If the relationship is not working after three to six months, you pull out."

DANNY BAMPING

Puzzle game (pounds 100K)

DANNY'S deal for his puzzle game Bedlam collapsed after he said his two investors disagreed.

On camera Danny, 32, was offered pounds 100,000 in the second series by Theo Paphitis and Rachel Elnaugh for a 30 per cent share in his business. A fortnight later Danny says Theo tried to strike a deal to buy out Rachel. Theo strongly denies this.

Danny later received a phone call from Rachel who said her offer still stood but advised him to REJECT her and Theo's offer and take out a bank loan instead. He said: "It was clear having those two people involved in my business together wouldn't have been the best option."

Despi te the shambles, Danny now sells his puzzle in stores across the country and his company is worth pounds 5million.

DAREN & RICHARD

Cap shops (pounds 150K)

DAREN Duraidi and Richard Lee are still waiting to finalise their Dragon deal to get their Mr Cap stores launched across the UK.

The pair, from the fifth episode of this series, say they have seen a shareholders' agreement but signing has been delayed because Duncan's on holiday.

Daren, 23, said: "It's taken three months because Duncan was buying the Living Well gyms for millions. Of course, that had priority. He has apologised for that.

" I 've seen a shareholders agreement and am pleased with it. The money isn't going to come in one lump sum but as we need it."

STEVE BELLIS

Poker league (pounds 65K)

THREE months after Steve won pounds 65,000 to help start his National poker league business, he says the Dragons' contract he was sent is so complicated he hasn't yet signed it.

Steve, 44, agreed the deal with judges Deborah and Theo in the 3rd series, who offered the lump sum of cash for 40 per cent of his business. He said:

"After the show my business went bonkers, I'm getting 500 emails a day. I was sent a contract by the Dragons but it's so complicated I haven't looked at it. The show's been fantastic for me but I don't think it's a very good environment for doing a business deal. I think very few deals go through."

news@sundaymirror.co.uk

Copyright 2006 . MGN Ltd.

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