Deborah Meaden

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Deborah Meaden
Born1959 (age 5960)
Taunton, Somerset, England
Residence Langport, Somerset
Primrose Hill, London
EducationTrowbridge 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]

A management buyout (MBO) is a form of acquisition where a company's existing managers acquire a large part or all of the company from either the parent company or from the private owners. Management and leveraged buyouts became phenomena of the 1980s. MBOs originated in the US and traversed the Atlantic, spreading first to the UK and throughout the rest of Europe. The venture capital industry has played a crucial role in the development of buyouts in Europe, especially in smaller deals in the UK, the Netherlands, and France.

BBC Two second television channel operated by the BBC

BBC Two is the second flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tends to broadcast more "highbrow" programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio channels, it is funded by the television licence, and is therefore free of commercial advertising. It is a comparatively well-funded public-service network, regularly attaining a much higher audience share than most public-service networks worldwide.


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]

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

Brightlingsea coastal town in the Tendring district of Essex, England

Brightlingsea is a coastal town and an electoral ward in the Tendring district of Essex, England. It is situated between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. At the 2011 Census, it had a population of 8,076.


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 ]

City College Brighton & Hove

City College Brighton & Hove was a large general further education college in Brighton and Hove. Its main campus was at Pelham Street, Brighton. It had previously been named Brighton College of Technology and before that Brighton Technical College. In early 2017 this college and Worthing-based Northbrook College were merged to form Greater Brighton Metropolitan College.

Harvey Nichols, founded in 1831, is a luxury British department store chain with a flagship store in Knightsbridge, London. It sells fashion collections for men and women, fashion accessories, beauty products, wine and food.

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.

Franchising Practice of the right to use a firms business model and brand for a prescribed period of time

Franchising is based on a marketing concept which can be adopted by an organization as a strategy for business expansion. Where implemented, a franchisor licenses its know-how, procedures, intellectual property, use of its business model, brand, and rights to sell its branded products and services to a franchisee. In return the franchisee pays certain fees and agrees to comply with certain obligations, typically set out in a Franchise Agreement.

West Country area of south-western England

The West Country is a loosely defined area of south-western England. The term usually encompasses the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and often the counties of Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, in the South West region. The region is host to distinctive regional dialects and accents. Some definitions also include Herefordshire.

Prize Bingo

Prize Bingo is a game derived from standard Bingo games which is particularly popular in UK seaside resorts. Rather than winning cash prizes as per normal bingo, Prize Bingo instead offers points to the winner of each game which can be redeemed in a dedicated shop near to or within the Prize Bingo area although some games reward players with free games or tokens.

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]

Exeter City in the south west of England

Exeter is a cathedral city in Devon, England, with a population of 129,800. The city is located on the River Exe approximately 36 miles (58 km) northeast of Plymouth and 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Bristol. It is the county town of Devon, and the base of Devon County Council. Also situated in Exeter are two campuses of the University of Exeter - Streatham Campus and St Luke's Campus.

South West England region of England in United Kingdom

South West England is one of nine official regions of England. It is the largest in area, covering 9,200 square miles (23,800 km2), and consists of the counties of Bristol, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Wiltshire, as well as the Isles of Scilly. Five million people live in South West England.

Phoenix Equity Partners is a United Kingdom mid-market private equity firm.

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.

Fox Brothers & Co is a clothmaker based in Wellington, Somerset, England. The company is one of the few working cloth mills still producing cloth entirely in England.

Wellington, Somerset town in Somerset, England

Wellington is a small market town in rural Somerset, a county in the west of England, situated 7 miles (11 km) south west of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district, near the border with Devon, which runs along the Blackdown Hills to the south of the town. The town has a population of 14,549, which includes the residents of the parish of Wellington Without, and the villages of Tone and Tonedale.

Pepe Jeans company

Pepe Jeans London is a denim and casual wear jeans brand established in the Portobello Road area of London in 1973, and based in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Spain.

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/SongJudges' scoresResult
Craig Revel Horwood Darcey Bussell Len Goodman Bruno Tonioli Total
1Tango / "Money, Money, Money"666624Safe
2Cha-Cha-Cha / "Respect"576624Safe
3Quickstep / "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"777728Safe
4Jive / "Making Your Mind Up"566623Safe
5Viennese Waltz / "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"677727Eliminated

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. She didn't want a family so 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 on a restored model farm near Langport in Somerset with numerous animals. [24] [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.

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