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Primrose Hill, London
|Education||Trowbridge High School|
|Alma mater||Brighton Technical College|
|Known for||Dragons' Den|
Strictly Come Dancing
|Net worth||£40 million|
|Spouse(s)||Paul (m. 1993)|
Deborah Sonia Meaden (born 1959) 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.
Meaden was born in Somerset. 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. 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) which she left at the age of 16. Meaden's first paid job was leading pony rides along Minehead seafront when she was eight years of age.
On leaving school, Meaden studied business at Brighton Technical College, after which she worked as a sales-room model in a fashion house. 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. The company failed after 18 months.
|“||I consider it a failure to slog on with a business that is going to die sooner rather than later. And that's a skill I've had from my very, very early days. It's very difficult to realise that you're not going to make any money out of something. A lot of people are blinded. They think, "I can't give this up. I'd feel like a failure."||”|
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. 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, and, in August 2007, her remaining stake of 23% in Weststar Holidays was liquidated when the firm was sold to Alchemy Partners for £83m, valuing her stake at about £19m.
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. 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. 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.
Meaden is known for her appearance as a "dragon" on the BBC Two programme Dragons' Den. 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.
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. 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|
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.
In November 2009, Meaden featured in a short film to promote Somerset to businesses, commissioned by Into Somerset, having previously recorded two other short films for the inward investment agency in February 2009.
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. She is an atheist.
In July 2010, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter Business School. She also received an honorary degree from Staffordshire University in the same month. She was given an honorary degree at Keele University in July 2013. In July 2014, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from Bath Spa University.