Episode 5 Duncan Bannatyne

First shown Monday 26th September 2016 8pm ITV1
Also shown Friday 17th March 2017 4.30pm ITV1

Duncan at home in Portugal

Famous faces revisit their former homes to share memories and secrets from when they lived there. Businessman Duncan Bannatyne revisits his childhood home in Clydebank to reveal how he had his first business idea, and explains why his heart will always be in Yorkshire.

Duncan Bannatyne is best known for being the tough talking businessman from TV’s Dragon’s Den. In this episode he gives viewers a tour of two of his current homes – his family home in Yorkshire and his fabulous villa in Portugal.

Born in 1949, Duncan came from a humble background.  He grew up, one of seven children in a council flat in Clydebank, the Scottish shipbuilding town just west of Glasgow. His father, Bill, was a Japanese prisoner of war. When he was released Duncan says his dad decided ‘He was going to get his own back on the Japanese by getting married and having children and living a normal family life.’

Duncan revisits the Clydebank childhood home he hasn’t stepped foot inside for forty years. He remembers that it was here that he had his very first business idea. Desperate for a paper round when none was available he knocked on doors and signed up a hundred new customers so he could deliver papers and make some money. When his venture paid off he had enough money to buy his whole family – six brothers and sisters - ice creams ‘which was a great day, great achievement’. Aged 15 he left home to join the Navy, but four years later was dishonourably discharged (for dangling an office over a jetty) and had to come back and live with his mum and dad and brothers and sisters in this 3 bedroom flat.

Duncan revisits his childhood home in Clydebank, Scotland

With no references and no job, Duncan roamed the country as an agricultural engineer repairing farm machinery. Eventually he ended up in Jersey where he met his future wife Gail. After 4 years in Jersey Duncan remembers reading a newspaper article about a self made millionaire businessman (possibly Alan Sugar) and decided he and Gail would ‘go back to England, make our millions and start a family’.

Their start was less than auspicious. After getting married they lodged in Gail’s sister’s spare room in Stockton-on-Tees and got jobs in a commercial bakery, while saving up cash. In 1979 Duncan and Gail had enough for a deposit on their first house – a semi on a new development in Stockton. There was a housing boom fuelled by plentiful mortgages.  Duncan paid £12,000, a £2,000 deposit and took a £10,000 mortgage. Duncan remembers ‘A week after getting the mortgage and buying the house, I went to a car auction to look at cars and an ice cream van came through so I bought an ice cream van’. If there was a single moment Duncan became an entrepreneur then this was it.

By 1986 Duncan had built up a lucrative fleet of five ice cream vans and could afford to move up the property ladder. He and Gail bought a large Victorian villa in Stockton, with plenty of parking! As he revisits this house he remembers it was here he had his next business idea. The ice cream business was seasonal and involved very long hours. He wanted a year-round business. ‘I was reading in the newspapers about nursing homes because Margaret thatcher had changed the rules, so I decided to open one. I looked at a few nursing homes where there was people living six in a room. I decided that if I was going to build one they’d all have single bedrooms.’

Budding businessman Duncan discovered the bank would lend him the money – but only after the nursing home was built and fully occupied. To pay the builder he sold everything he had - his car, his ice cream van business, and finally his house. Duncan moved his family (he and Gail had two young daughters by this time) to a much smaller house nearby.

Returning to his downsizer house Duncan remembers teaching his daughter Abigail to ride a bike on the crescent outside. Duncan says;  I know many people might think downsizing your house is a sort of sign of failure, but in our case it wasn’t. It was a sign of something exciting and something new that was going to happen.”

Duncan's gamble paid off - the house he bought when his nursing home business took off

Duncan’s gamble paid off. The nursing home business was a huge success, and soon he’d built another 8 nursing homes.  He could afford to move his family to a big house in the Yorkshire countryside. There was a dining room big enough to hold dinner parties and a large garden where he remembers building snowmen in the winter with the children ‘I loved living in this house. I loved this house. It was a great house’.

But the pressure of business took its toll on his marriage and he and Gail separated and then divorced in 1993. Duncan and Gail are on good terms today, and Gail’s love for this house continues - it is still her home today.

When Duncan finally sold his nursing home business, he personally banked £26m. He remembers; ‘I decided I wanted to do something with that money, something for other people’. He was about to build another home, but this time it wasn’t a business and he didn’t plan to live in it.  With fellow Scot Magnus McFarlane-Barrow (now boss of international charity Mary’s Meals) Duncan built an orphanage in Romania. It was designed to provide a hospice for 20 orphans who were all HIV positive. They weren’t expected to live long, but because of the care they received there nearly all of the children did survive. He and Magnus have even been invited to some of their weddings. Duncan says; ‘Casa Bannatyne is probably the most important home in my story actually. It will always be part of my life, forever. It’s just a wonderful place.’

New businesses continued to keep Duncan busy. Today he features in the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £200m generated by The Bannatyne Group chain of fitness clubs, hotels and spas. Duncan was with second wife Joanne for 15 years, and had two children (he has six children in total, four with Gail).

The final visit of Duncan’s tour of his previous homes is to a flat on a prestigious development just outside Stockton. This was the luxurious flat that became a bolthole after his second divorce. Here he remembers receiving his divorce papers while filming on the set of Dragon’s Den - the TV show that made him a household name.

Duncan has owned 16 different homes while he’s lived in Yorkshire. His current home is a Victorian house in Yarm of which he says ‘I’d probably spent 15 years looking for a house like this. I love this house, I’ll always have this house, I’ll never ever sell it’. This house is home where his six children and two grandchildren can visit.

Duncan also shows off his villa in Portugal which he shares with his fiance Nigora Whitehorn. ‘An outsider might think I’m starting to slow down and benefit from my hard work and enjoy the sunshine. And they might be right!’

Duncan's current home in North Yorkshire

Celebrity Home Secrets: A So Television / Sunnyside Productions Co-production
Executive Producers: Graham Stuart, Andrea Miller, Jerry Foulkes
Directed and Filmed by: James Bainbridge