Who should be “in” Theo Paphitis’ Dragons’ Den seat?

Rymans boss Theo Paphitis says he’s out of the BBC show, who do businesses want in his place?

Striaght-talking retail magnate Theo Paphitis has done it. After nine years he has announced he’s leaving his seat empty on the Dragons’ Den show to spend more time with his businesses.

Speculation is rife about who should take Paphitis’ seat on the entrepreneurial fiery den. The British Library’s entrepreneur in residence Stephen Fear has had to rule himself out of the running from all the calls he says he has been getting.

“I suppose that my being Entrepreneur in Residence at The British Library pushes forward these type of rumours, but that’s all they are I’m afraid, rumours. We have our own agenda with regards to TV and I am concentrating on that for now,” says Fear.

So now that Fear is out, we shouldn’t be afraid of asking – who would businesses like to see take Paphitis’ seat?

Internet entrepreneur Gemma Johnson, who is CEO of family money-saving website MyFamilyClub.co.uk says it should be the entrepreneur king – Sir Richard Branson, or the Moshi Monsters’ supremo Michael Acton-Smith.

“I would like to see Richard Branson on the panel of Dragons’ Den because he is a massive idol of mine but I would really love to see Michael Acton-Smith who set up Firebox.com and is the creative genius behind Moshi Monsters! He is so down to earth and incredibly inspirational.”

Kerry Bannigan, CEO of international creative events agency Nolcha, who works with Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Landrover, Paul Mitchell and Vitamin Water. Like Gemma Johnson, she’s keen on Branson.

“Other than the fantastic Richard Branson I would be interested to see a fashion figure there somebody who can add some quirkness to the show but also true success – maybe Zandra Rhodes or a young entrepreneur”

Who would she choose as a young trailblazer who could take Paphitis’ seat? Bannigan would plump for 30 year-old fashion designer Christopher Kane, who has set tongues wagging at recent London Fashion Week appearances.

Unsurprisingly, Virgin Media Pioneer and 23-year old dance company entrepreneur Zoe Jackson would pick Branson too.

“I think he would have a different energy to previous Dragon’s on the programme and would invest in businesses that will make a social difference and do good in the world as well as make money.”

Hayley Smith, account director at London PR firm Through The Door Promotions, has a rather cheeky TV entrepreneurial talent swap. Smith would say out with Theo Paphitis and in with Apprentice star and Lord Sugar’s right-hand woman Karren Brady.

“Karren Brady has an amazing business mind, and understands what a business requires to succeed. Also, she isn’t afraid to take risks and will often see opportunities in businesses that the other Dragons may miss or disregard. Also, coming from a sports background, she offers a unique perspective and brings a new skill to the table. “

Creative agency Evidently CEO Daniel Zeff is unspririsngly modern in his suggestion for Dragons’ Den producers. Go digital, go for Google.

“Personally I’d love to see someone like Matt Brittin from Google UK on the Dragons’ Den panel. The current Dragons are all self-made entrepreneurs, but not necessarily high fliers in the new digital economy. Someone like Matt, one of the premiere social media and search experts in Europe, could bring a whole new skill set to the Den. He has considerable knowledge and a wealth of insight which can inspire Britain’s SMEs, and Matt’s background at McKinsey would also be an asset.”

Dave Chaplin, CEO of ContractorCalculator, naughtily suggests Business Secretary Vince Cable. “Let’s see how his expertise fares in the real world of business!” he adds.

Meanwhile, Rytis Vitkauskas, founder of London events app YPlan, has a cheeky suggestion.

“Without a question, it’s Brent Hoberman. Brent has incredible vision for successful future business models, is connected like no one else, and has a track record of picking the right horse by founding lastminute.com and advising/investing in such high profile startups as Shazam, TweetDeck, Blink Booking and of course YPlan!”

Finally last but certainly not least, LondonlovesBusiness.com columnist and Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins has an idea: Poach the bank bosses for some guest Dragons.

“The only people likely to want to go onto Dragons’ Den are those who for some reason want to be famous, or more famous than they already are, which is exactly why the likes of Virgin boss Richard Branson, or even my old ‘mate’ Sir Lord Sugar, wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. They just ain’t going to be interested!

“Tell you what though, I’ve got a good idea – how about a revolving seat for the chief executives of our major banking institutions? One week in four the ‘guest Dragon’ could be, in strict rotation, either: Stephen Hester (RBS), Antonio Horta Osario (Lloyds TSB), Antony Jenkins (Barclays), and Stuart Gulliver (HSBC). This way these public pariahs could get the exposure they need so that the British public could fall in love with them all over again, and stop saying nasty things about them.

“And what better way to prove that the banks really do want to lend money to small businesses, than by going on weekly television and doing just that?

“There might be some added benefit also in this project, in that these bonus absorbing islands of impunity might just have to meet some real businessmen and women, and in doing so they might again understand what it’s like to meet traders who are not consulting them on the best ways to minimise their tax liability. People who are trying to put something back into this country, not shovel it offshore as stealthily as possible. It might make interesting viewing!”

And with that, we have a good few business suggestions for Dragons’ Den producers to stew over for their bedtime reading!

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