Dragons’ Den tycoon Duncan Bannatyne’s brother turns his life around


The brother of Dragons’ Den tycoon Duncan Bannatyne has turned his life around – after refusing to ask for help from his millionaire brother.

Bill Bannatyne, 54, hit rock bottom in January 2009 when he lost his job as a fork lift truck driver and ended up on benefits.

But the stubborn father-of-three was determined not to go begging to his millionaire brother, Duncan Bannatyne, 61, said to be worth around £350 million.

Instead, he applied to the A4e re-employment scheme where counsellors were so impressed with Bill they gave him a job as a personal employment coach.

Bill, from Whittlesey, near Peterborough, Cambs., has not spoken to his brother Duncan for four years.

The brothers fell out on the publication of the Dragon’s autobiography which described a childhood of abject poverty in a family who lacked ambition.

Proud Bill, the fifth of seven siblings who grew up in the industrial town of Clydebank, Dumbartonshire, near Glasgow, accused Duncan of rewriting history.

Even though Duncan, the second eldest, said last year that any of his siblings could come to to him for money, Bill did not relent.

He said: ”Even when I was desperate for money I never would have gone to Duncan for help. It’s down to pride – and stubborness.

”I’m not going to slag off my brother. We don’t speak any longer but I’m very proud of what Duncan has achieved.

”He’s had an amazing career and the amount of stuff he’s done for charity is incredible, but it never crossed my mind to beg him for help.

”Not everybody can be a millionaire. There has to be people at the other end of the scale.

”It’s a great feeling to be able to pay my own way and stop living off the state. I fully enjoy helping other people get back into work.

”You just feel like you’re on the scrap heap. This was the first time I had been unemployed for such an extended period of time. I was so desperate I would have turned my hand to absolutely anything.

”I applied for everything I could find – train station attendant, van driver, ambulance driver – but there didn’t seem to be any jobs in the area.

”The biggest pressure was finding the mortgage payments on my flat every month as they weren’t covered by my benefits.

”I thought I was finished and that I would lose the flat and end up in sheltered housing.”

And Bill has angrily refuted claims made by Duncan last year that he spent all the money he gave him on lager.

Bill said: ”I’m surprised that he said that about me. It’s completely untrue – I used the cheque he sent me to buy a car.”

Divorcee Bill was made redundant from his job as a forklift truck driver for the third time in January 2009.

He applied for 150 jobs but by the time he sought help at A4e in Peterborough, Cambs., he had not been invited to a single interview.

But after he told an employment coach he would love to do their job, Bill was offered a six week training scheme with A4e and started full time in April this year.

A4e was founded by Emma Harrison 20 years ago to re-skill workers made redundant after the steel industry crash of the 1980s and now operates in 11 countries worldwide.

Peterborough A4e centre manager Karen Kendrick said: ”Bill interviewed really well. He came out on top because of his great communication and people skills.

”Bill is an asset to the A4E team and a shining example of how to turn your life around.”

Siblings Sandy Bannatyne, 44, and Bill publicly fell out with Duncan when ”Anyone Can Do It: From An Ice Cream Van To Dragons’ Den” was published in 2006.

In the book, Duncan wrote: ”Most of my siblings are happy to live an ordinary life. None of them asked me to help start a business, which is amazing.

”I didn’t have my father’s attitude that we shouldn’t have ideas above our station.”

The enraged brothers even joined a Facebook group called ”I hate Duncan Bannatyne” where they accused Duncan of being tight.

Duncan Bannatyne started his business with a single ice cream van bought for £450 and has ammassed a fortune estimated at 350 million.

He then founded Quality Care Homes which was sold for £26 million in 1996 and children’s nursery chain Just Learning which he later sold for £22 million.

He now owns Bannatyne’s Health Clubs chain, as well as bars, hotels and property and rose to fame on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den show in 2005.

A publicist for Duncan Bannatyne said he declined to comment on his brother’s situation.


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