Deborah Meaden

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Deborah Meaden
Deborah meaden theo pahitis patrick van der vorst.jpg
Photo taken after BBC's Dragon's Den appearance
Born 1959 (age 60–61)
Taunton, Somerset, England
Nationality British
Education Trowbridge High School
Alma mater Brighton Technical College
Occupation Businesswoman
Known for Dragons' Den
Strictly Come Dancing
Net worth £40 million
Spouse(s) Paul (m. 1993)

Deborah Sonia Meaden (born 1959)[1] is an English businesswoman who ran a multimillion-pound family holiday business, before completing a management buyout, but is now best known for her appearances on the BBC Two business programme Dragons' Den.[2]

Early life

Meaden was born in Somerset.[1] Her parents divorced when she was young, and her mother moved Deborah and her older sister Gail to Brightlingsea in Essex. Her mother remarried and had two more daughters (Cass and Emma) with Brian, the man Meaden calls Dad.[citation needed] Meaden went to the Godolphin School, Salisbury, for a brief period and then to Trowbridge High School for Girls (now The John of Gaunt School)[citation needed] which she left at the age of 16.[1] Meaden's first paid job was leading pony rides along Minehead seafront when she was eight years of age.[3]


On leaving school, Meaden studied business at Brighton Technical College, after which she worked as a sales-room model in a fashion house.[4] After graduation, she moved to Italy at 19 and set up a glass and ceramics export agency, which sold products to retailers including Harvey Nichols.[4] The company failed after 18 months.[citation needed]

Meaden and a partner bought one of the first Stefanel textile franchises in the UK, which was based in the West Country; she sold out two years later to her partner for £10,000.[citation needed] She then had several successful leisure and retail businesses, including a spell operating a Prize Bingo at Butlins in Minehead.

In 1988, Meaden joined her family's business to run its amusement arcade operations and in 1992, joined Weststar Holidays, a family holiday park operator based in Exeter, Devon, with its major sites in South West England. In 1999, she led a management buyout and acquired the majority shareholding. By the time she sold the company six years later, Weststar was providing holidays for more than 150,000 people each year with an EBITDA in excess of £11m. In 2005, she made a partial exit when Weststar was sold in a deal worth £33 million to Phoenix Equity Partners,[5] and, in August 2007, her remaining stake of 23%[6] in Weststar Holidays was liquidated when the firm was sold to Alchemy Partners for £83m, valuing her stake at about £19m.[7]

In 2009, Meaden acquired Fox Brothers – a West Country textile mill established in 1772 and still based in Wellington, Somerset – along with fellow shareholder, Douglas Cordeaux, former design director at Pepe Jeans London.[8] She was also involved in a collaboration with BBC conductor Charles Hazlewood, 'Play the Field', a weekend of classical music on Charles's farm in Somerset over the August bank holiday weekend 2009.[9] In October 2011, Meaden launched 'The Merchant Fox', an online store selling British-made luxury goods with provenance.

In 2009, a planning inspector criticised Meaden's evidence to his enquiry as "implausible" in a dispute over the granting of village green status to a field on which Mudstone LLP, a firm in which she is a partner, wished to build 48 homes.[10][11]


Dragons' Den

Meaden is known for her appearance as a "dragon" on the BBC Two programme Dragons' Den.[12] She took over from Rachel Elnaugh in the third series of the show on 3 August 2006. Like Elnaugh, Meaden was the only female "dragon" on the programme, although this changed in subsequent seasons with the arrival of Hilary Devey to replace James Caan. So far in the Den, she has agreed investments in 63 businesses to the value of over £3.3m, making her the highest investor on the show by average.[citation needed]

Strictly Come Dancing

Meaden took part in the eleventh series of the BBC One dancing show Strictly Come Dancing, which began on 7 September 2013 and was partnered with professional dancer Robin Windsor.[13][14][15][16] She was eliminated from the show on 26 October.

Week # Dance/Song Judges' scores Result
Craig Revel Horwood Darcey Bussell Len Goodman Bruno Tonioli Total
1 Tango / "Money, Money, Money" 6 6 6 6 24 Safe
2 Cha-Cha-Cha / "Respect" 5 7 6 6 24 Safe
3 Quickstep / "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" 7 7 7 7 28 Safe
4 Jive / "Making Your Mind Up" 5 6 6 6 23 Safe
5 Viennese Waltz / "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" 6 7 7 7 27 Eliminated

Other appearances


Meaden published Common Sense Rules (Random House) in the UK in May 2009. She used a ghostwriting service known as Professional Ghost to complete this project.[19]

Other work

In November 2009, Meaden featured in a short film to promote Somerset to businesses, commissioned by Into Somerset,[20] having previously recorded two other short films for the inward investment agency in February 2009.[21]

Meaden is a member of the Council of Ambassadors of the World Wildlife Fund.[22]

She does a lot of work with the Dogs Trust charity and is an ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society.[23]

Personal life

Meaden met her husband, Paul, in summer 1985, while he worked at Weststar during his university break. They separated, but after she took a trip to Venezuela, she returned to London and they married in 1993. The couple have no children and live in a period property near Langport in Somerset with numerous animals. Meaden bought the property in 2006 after selling her Weststar Holidays business for £33m. Since then, the house has undergone extensive renovations using period accurate materials.[3][24] Meaden said: "We have done it up in an ethical way, restoring whatever we can using traditional materials. That has cost us at least twice as much as it needed to. I always say: we were lucky to find our home, and it was lucky to find us. I do not know anybody in their right mind who would have spent the money on it we have – far more than we will ever get back."[25]

She is an atheist.[26] Meaden has listed her favourite film as The Shawshank Redemption, her favourite holiday destination as Central/South America and her favourite sport as rugby union.[27]


In July 2010, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter Business School.[28] She also received an honorary degree from Staffordshire University in the same month.[29] She was given an honorary degree at Keele University in July 2013.[30] In July 2014, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from Bath Spa University.


  1. ^ a b c Hasan, Mehdi (6 January 2011). "The NS Interview: Deborah Meaden, Dragons' Den panellist". New Statesman. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  2. ^ "My Bottom Line: entrepreneur Deborah Meaden". BBC. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b Ferguson, Donna (9 April 2017). "TV Dragon Deborah Meaden on her worst mistake". This is Money. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Vicky Frost Meets Deborah Meaden". The Guardian. London. 28 August 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Deborah Meaden – profile". BBC Dragons' Den. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Deborah Meaden – WWF UK". Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Deborah Meaden and family". Sunday Times Rich List 2008. London: The Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  8. ^ Keens, Emma (16 January 2010). "I'm in: Dragon Meaden buys Fox Brothers". The Times.
  9. ^ "Play the field site".
  10. ^ Dragons' Den star in planning row. BBC News (4 September 2009). Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  11. ^ Planning inspector blasts TV Dragon Meaden Archived 5 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine. (4 September 2009). Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  12. ^ "Question time with Hannah Pool: Dragons' Den's Deborah Meaden on why she can't stand bullshit". The Guardian. London. 22 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  13. ^ Plunkett, John (2 September 2013). "Strictly Come Dancing 2013 contestants unveiled | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing 2013 full lineup: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ben Cohen – Strictly Come Dancing News – Reality TV". Digital Spy. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  15. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing Deborah Meaden: 'Criticism must be constructive' – Strictly Come Dancing News – Reality TV". Digital Spy. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  16. ^ "BBC One – Strictly Come Dancing – Deborah Meaden". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  17. ^ Grace, Steve. "BBC - The Speaker - Conviction: How to deliver a speech with conviction". Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  18. ^ Kevin Pietersen: Beast of Man, Episode 8, Champagne
  19. ^ "Previous Work and Testimonials". Professional Ghost. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  20. ^ "Credit Crunch". BBC. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  21. ^ Into Somerset video gallery Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine – Into Somerset website
  22. ^ "Deborah Meaden". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2010.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  23. ^ "Marine-conservation-society". Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  24. ^ McBride, Lorraine (12 January 2014). "Deborah Meaden: 'I was selling flowers at the age of seven'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  25. ^ Ferguson, Donna (8 April 2017). "TV Dragon Deborah Meaden on her worst mistake". This is Money. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  26. ^ "Deborah Meaden". Michelle Ogundehin. ELLE Decoration UK. August 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  27. ^ "BBC - BBC Two Programmes - Dragons' Den - Deborah Meaden". Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  28. ^ "Honorary graduates 2010-11 Deborah Meaden (LLD)". University of Exeter. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  29. ^ Staffordshire University announces 2010 honours list Archived 28 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  30. ^ "Keele Honorary Degrees Summer 2013". Keele University. Retrieved 4 March 2015.

External links

  • Official website
  • Official BBC Dragons' Den website
  • Video: Deborah on speaking with conviction
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