It could be fun to be a fly on the wall when the new series of Dragons’ Den starts filming next week: the spat between Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan over the latter’s tax status has escalated, with Bannatyne telling the Telegraph that he won’t be investing alongside any fellow Dragons who use funds from offshore companies (wonder who he's referring to?). You may remember last month that Bannatyne found himself in hot water with Caan’s lawyers after moaning about the tax advantages of non-doms. And although we can't help but be a little suspicious about the timing of all this, it should certainly make for some juicy TV viewing....
Of course Bannatyne has made his feelings about non-doms perfectly clear (he reckons they have an unfair advantage over UK-based entrepreneurs). But after his 'friend' Caan, a registered non-dom, reacted angrily to his criticisms (getting his lawyers on the case), it seems to have got very personal. The fiery Bannatyne has now publicly informed his fellow Dragons (who also include Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones) that he will not co-invest alongside anyone who uses an offshore company as an investment vehicle. ‘I am not feeding the coffers of the Cayman Islands or British Virgin Islands,’ he grumbled. Since Caan's private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw is registered in the Cayman Islands, he's not exactly being terribly subtle here.
The non-dom issue has become something of a hobby horse for Bannatyne. And he doesn’t seem overly concerned that his outspoken views may be costing him friends. While he didn’t slag his rival off directly in his original Telegraph article (in fact he was at great pains to explain what a nice guy Caan was) it's no great surprise that Caan took offense. Now relations are apparently decidedly frosty between the two: rumour has it that when they last met, Bannatyne offered Caan his hand, but the latter just shook his head and walked past. Ouch.
Still, BBC producers clearly aren't too worried. This is the third year that the line-up of investors has remained unchanged, the first time this has ever happened. If anything the extra tension between the two might lend an extra frisson to proceedings if they get into a bidding war - which should be good for the show's viewing figures. In fact, sceptics might even wonder whether the timing is a bit too convenient...
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Dragons' Den non-dom dust-up: Bannatyne threatens to shun Caan
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