Duncan Bannatyne Biography


Birthday: February 2, 1949 (Aquarius)

Born In: Clydebank, Scotland

Duncan Walker Bannatyne, OBE, is a noted Scottish entrepreneur, investor, author and philanthropist. Coming from modest family background, Bannatyne served and had a dishonourable discharge from the Royal Navy leading to a nine-month service in the tough Colchester military detention centre. Moving on he did several odd jobs before starting his business career in Stockton-on-Tees in North England by buying an ice cream van for £450. He then thrived in expanding the business and as destiny would have it, with time his business flourished. He later sold it and established a nursing home called Quality Care Homes and then sold the latter and a children’s nursing chain called Just Learning and expanded into health clubs with the Bannatyne Health Clubs chain, hotels, bars and property. Bannatyne presently owns the biggest health club chains in the UK. He featured as a business angel on the British TV programme ‘Dragons' Den’. He has done a lot of charitable work and established the ‘Bannatyne Charitable Trust.  He was inducted an OBE partly for his work with charities like Mary's meals. He has also authored seven books.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: Duncan Walker Bannatyne

Age: 74 Years, 74 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Nigora Whitehorn, Joanne McCue (m. 2006–2013)

father: William Bannatyne

mother: Jean Bannatyne

siblings: Anne Bannatyne, Bill Bannatyne, Campbell Bannatyne, George Bannatyne, Helen Bannatyne, Sandy Bannatyne

children: Abigail Bannatyne, Emily Bannatyne, Eve Bannatyne, Hollie Bannatyne, Jennifer Bannatyne, Thomas Bannatyne

Born Country: Scotland

Investors Philanthropists

Height: 1.8 m

Founder/Co-Founder: Bannatyne's

More Facts

education: Clydebank High School

Childhood & Early Life

Duncan Walker Bannatyne was born on February 2, 1949, in Clydebank, Scotland. His father Bill served line infantry regiment Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army during Second World War. Following Japanese capture of Singapore marking the largest British surrender in history during the Battle of Singapore, Bill worked on the Burma Railway and later at the Clydebank Singer plant foundry.

Duncan Bannatyne and his siblings were raised in relatively modest circumstances in one room of a large house that was shared with six other families. He studied at the Dalmuir Primary School where he excelled in arithmetic.

After clearing his Eleven plus exam, Bannatyne enrolled at the Clydebank High School. Most of the students there had their own bicycle and when Bannatyne’s mother said that she could not afford to buy him one, he resolved to earn the money and buy it. He asked a local newsagent if he could start a paper round to which she challenged him to come up with a list of 100 new customers. He did so, got the job and bought a bicycle with his own earnings. He was only interested in PE and woodwork at high school and dropped from there at 15 before obtaining any qualification.

He worked for a local cabinet-maker for a couple of weeks in 1964 before joining the Royal Navy where he volunteered for twelve years as a junior second class engineering mechanic (stoker) at the naval training establishment at Shotley, near Ipswich in Suffolk called Royal Naval Training Establishment Shotley.

He served in the Navy for many years which included tenure on the Audacious-class aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. Bannatyne however received a dishonourable discharge from the Navy for throwing an officer off a boat landing jetty in Scotland. He was only 19 at that time. He later claimed in his autobiography that the step taken by him was in part a reaction to the abuse of authority of that particular officer, in part a dare by his shipmates and also because he wanted to get out of the Navy as he had become disillusioned with it. The incident led him to serve nine months in Colchester military detention centre. He was also kept in the Barlinnie prison in Glasgow for ten days for failing to pay a fine of £10 in connection with a charge of breach of peace and resisting arrest.

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Business Career

Duncan Bannatyne strived with his career in his twenties. After returning to Clydebank he took training as an agricultural vehicle fitter and repaired tractors travelling across the country. In 1974, he relocated to Jersey and lived there for four years. He obtained an HGV licence there and sustained himself doing several jobs including working as hospital porter, deckchair attendant and ice cream seller.

He relocated to Stockton-on-Tees in North East England at age 29 and recalled later that he did not have a bank account until he was 30. Business career of Bannatyne began shortly after he shifted to Stockton-on-Tees when he purchased an ice cream van for £450. His business flourished leading him to expand it by purchasing more vans at the time of the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars. He later sold the business for £28,000 and founded Quality Care Homes, a nursing home business.

He again sold the latter for £26 million in 1997 as also Just Learning, a children's nursery chain, for £12 million.

Duncan Bannatyne then shifted his focus to health club business and has since expanded into it with the Bannatyne Health Club & Spa chain, and also hotels, bars, and property. In August 2006, he shelled out £92 million to acquire 26 health clubs from Hilton Hotels. The Bannatyne Group presently has 71 sites and is counted as the largest independent chain of health clubs in the UK. As of June 2018, the business includes 46 spas with plans for more, and runs four hotels. The Sunday Times Rich List estimated his wealth at £280 million that year.

Presence in the Media & Other Endeavours

Bannatyne has authored seven books so far, namely ‘Anyone Can Do It’ (2006), ‘Wake Up and Change Your Life’ (2008), ‘How to be Smart With Your Money’ (2009), ‘How to be Smart With Your Time’ (2010), ‘43 Mistakes Businesses Make’ (2011), ‘37 Questions Everyone in Business Needs to Answer’ (2012), and ‘Riding The Storm’ (2013).

He featured as one of the "Dragons" that is wealthy investors, in the Evan Davis presented British television programme, Dragons' Den from 2005 to 2015. The BBC series gives opportunity to entrepreneurs to present their business ideas to five "Dragons" of the show and pitch for financial investment in exchange for a stake of the company. Bannatyne invested in 36 businesses during his tenure on the show.

Duncan Bannatyne participated in fifteenth series of the British survival-reality television show ‘I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!’ in 2015. He was eliminated fifth on December 3, 2015 and he went on to donate the fees he received from the show to the Operation Smile charity.

He took part in fourth series of the British travel documentary show ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ during April-May 2020. The BBC show that follows elderly celebrities while they travel across India and experience the culture saw Bannatyne visiting Puducherry and Rishikesh with other celebrities like John Altman, Zandra Rhodes and Paul Elliott.

He supported the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, but switched his political affiliations to New Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. During the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, he voted for withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

Charitable Pursuits

Over the years, Bannatyne has remained involved with and funded several charitable causes. His charitable pursuits include funding different projects in Romania over a ten-year period which encompasses Casa Bannatyne in Târgu-Mureş and a hospice care for orphans suffering from HIV and AIDS. He invested £80,000 in the latter.

He established the Bannatyne Charitable Trust in March 2008 and in May 19 that year he joined hands with MP for South Swindon Anne Snelgrove to launch the Geared for Giving Campaign at the House of Commons to raise awareness of Payroll Giving with business leaders of the UK. He raised £20,000 for charity NCH featuring on the TV show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ on August 29 same year.

An ex-smoker and now an anti-tobacco campaigner, Bannatyne publicly took on British American Tobacco during its April 2008 AGM and made a documentary about ethics of the multinational company. In October that year, he became President of the No Smoking Day charity.

He consented of becoming a Patron of the charity called ‘Blue Lamp Foundation’ in August 2010. It was established by the Northumbria Police Constable David Rathband, who lost his eyesight after suffering gunshot wounds during the 2010 Northumbria Police manhunt. Bannatyne is also heavily involved with UNICEF and Comic Relief. He was honoured with the Order of the British Empire partly for his work with charities like Mary's meals.

Family & Personal Life

Duncan Bannatyne was married to Gail Brodie from 1983 to 1994. Together they have four daughters - Hollie, Abigail, Jennifer and Eve. His second marriage with Joanne McCue lasted from 2006 to 2012. He has a daughter Emily and a son Thomas through Joanne. His two grandchildren, Ava and Austin, are from his eldest daughter. He mentioned in 2011 that he suffers from prosopagnosia.

On June 3, 2017, he married Nigora Whitehorn and presently resides in Portugal.

He received an honorary doctorate of science from Glasgow Caledonian University on July 5, 2006, and an honorary doctorate of business administration from Teesside University, on February 6, 2009.

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