Business Irish

Tuesday 23 September 2014

I'm out! Kerr will quit Dragons' Den but stays on radio

Dragon sees €5k return on €250,000 invested

Tom Lyons

Published 04/11/2012 | 05:00

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Bobby Kerr, one of the original stars of Dragons' Den, has decided to pull-out of the fifth series of the popular RTE television show.

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" Life is about timing. I believe in getting out while you're ahead," Kerr told the Sunday Independent. "Maybe [the show] will be better in the future," Kerr said, "It is probably at a crossroads. I don't have the appetite for it. I am not prepared to play for just TV."

The Insomnia co-founder is the second of the founding Dragon's to drop out of the show this year after Niall O'Farrell, the founder of Blacktie, the retail chain of formal wear. Kerr said he was grateful to the show for "opening many doors" and for allowing him meet so many Irish entrepreneurs.

Kerr said he had invested €250,000 in 10 companies over his four series in the hot-seat and got back just €5,000 to date. The investment which paid that dividend was from the Pregnancy & Baby Fair which took place in the RDS in October.

"Whether they've worked out or not, I still have good relationships with everybody I invested in," Kerr said, before adding that he was still very involved with most of his investments.

Kerr said Surf Seeds, a health-food business he invested in during the show, was working on a rebrand that will see its products retail in a more economical package that would allow it to sell for €1. He said Uncle Aidan's Flour was also working out for him and that it planned to launch a wholemeal bread with a new partner, Gallaghers Bakery. Bintrasher, a compacting device for wheelie bins, he said was also doing well as it was now for sale in 40 Woodies stores. The Hangout, an all weather gazebo business, Kerr said, was "looking at taking things in a new direction."

Kerr said the performance of his core business Insomnia was improving in the downturn where like-for-like sales would go up 5 per cent in 2012 after rising 4 per cent in 2011. "Our turnover will be about €22m this year," Kerr said.

The group has 65 outlets with 32 of these own stores and the balance in Spars and other concessions. Kerr said Insomnia had made "modest," profits in 2011 and he expected the group to be profitable again this year. Insomnia has hired 60 new staff this year, taking its total to 300 people.

During the boom, only four of Insomnia's staff were Irish, he said. These days, 27 per cent of employees are Irish.

"We're paying off our debts at a rate of €600,000 a year," Kerr added, "and in three years we hope to be debt-free."

Kerr said he planned to continue broadcasting his popular business show with Newstalk on Sunday morning's and look at other business opportunities.

He has joined Titan Marketing, a sports management and sponsorship business, as a non-executive director, and pro bono the board of Microfinance Ireland, which has €100m to loan to small firms who have been turned down by traditional banks.

Bang restaurant, which he co-owns with Joe Barrett and others, on Merrion Row, would make a profit this year despite the past setback of a fire. "We're going to probably look for a second site next year," Kerr said.

Sunday Indo Business

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