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David Chilton Reflects on Three Seasons of Dragons’ Den

David Chilton Reflects on Three Seasons of <I>Dragons’ Den</I>

Dragons’ David Chilton and Arlene Dickinson capped off their season on Dragons’ Den last night, with one last episode remaining next week, which updates viewers on how many deals have gone so far. The Toronto Star caught up with David to talk about his three seasons on the show:

After three seasons on Dragons’ Den, star judge and financial author David Chilton is hanging up his wings. And he has a few small regrets.

One is that his adult son Scott still hasn’t seen a single episode of the show.

“He’s never seen the series. Actually, he didn’t even read the original Wealthy Barber, but he did read the sequel, so I guess that means I’m one for three,” jokes the author of Canada’s bestselling financial advice book with characteristic self-deprecation.

Still, Chilton has plenty of fans to go around. And he says at least his mom still watches him religiously. As one of the most popular Dragons on the CBC reality show, he will hear the final pitches of the season Wednesday, with the season finale updating what’s going on with the Dragons next Wednesday. That will be his farewell episode.

That will also be the final episode for fellow dragon Vikram Vij, who presided for only one season.

“I wasn’t surprised,” says Chilton. “He was opening so many restaurants he was going crazy. I wish him well, he’s a great guy to work with, very warm and an excellent sense of humour.”

The series, which has would-be entrepreneurs pitching ideas to veteran businesspeople, remains one of CBC’s top-rated shows with more than a million viewers per episode.

With Chilton and Vij departing as well as fellow dragon Arlene Dickinson, the three new replacements include Joe Fresh founder Joe Mimran, brewery owner Manjit Minhas and Internet entrepreneur Michele Romanow. They’ll join remaining Dragons Michael Wekerle and Jim Treliving for Season 10, which tapes in April.

“Joe Mimran brings so many things to the show, he is a true branding expert who created some of the biggest brands in Canada. Michelle is very sharp and her expertise is in digital marketing, which is key to the show.

“Manjit I haven’t met as yet, but I reached out to congratulate her as soon as I found out,” said Chilton. “I’m looking forward to next year. I think it will be a lot of fun with all that new energy. The CBC did some incredible work and have gone to the ends of the earth to get the right people.”

Chilton, 53, said after doing 22 deals on the show it was time to slow down.

“There was no hidden agenda behind this. It was about time management. It took me four months to do the due diligence on the deals each season alone. And I wanted to spend more time at home. I’m extremely close to my parents. They’re in their 80s and still healthy, and it would be great to be able to do more.”

Chilton announced he was leaving in February. A week later, Dickinson also announced she was leaving. And a month later, Vij. The back-to-back departures had some wondering whether there was trouble in the den.

“I had no idea Arlene was leaving. I joked that she left because I was leaving, but that wasn’t the case. She’ll be missed for sure,” says Chilton.

Here are some parting thoughts on Chilton’s fondest deal and his fellow Dragons:

Best deal: I invested $250,000 with (fellow judge) Jim Treliving for 20 per cent of a company called Steeped Tea that sold tea at parties like you would Tupperware. It was in the first episode I taped, it just fell in my lap and it’s one of the best deals in the history of Dragons’ Den. When we bought into them they were doing just over a million in sales. This year they will likely do $20 million just three years later and it’s going to grow because they’re pushing into the U.S. market.

Arlene Dickinson: She’s exceptionally smart. People know her for her marketing savvy, but she’s got all round business savvy. She’s sharp. And she’s actually quite shy. One funny thing I get almost every day is someone comes up to me and asks why is Arlene wearing the same clothes? Actually we’re all pretty much wearing the same clothes. The production schedule is petty tight and so we do it for continuity. But only Arlene really gets noticed because, whether you like it or not, we live in a sexist culture.

Michael Wekerle: You would think I would say he’s really wild or really smart. He’s certainly both. But what I took away was that he really treats everyone with respect. And yes, he’s certainly the wildest guy I’ve ever met. I remember him calling me up at the hotel when I was in Toronto and saying maybe we should go to the El Mocambo where he’s thinking of buying the sign outside. The next day I’m reading that he bought the place.

Bruce Croxon: He is super smart. Also one of the most casual people I’ve ever met in terms of dress and attitude. Very self-deprecating. I learned a ton from him. I learned that technology is involved in all pitches even if you’re just selling a bathroom mat. You have to have an online presence. He was also the only Dragon with very young kids, so it wasn’t easy to be away all the time and I’m sure it took a toll.

Vikram Vij: Really delightful guy. Extremely funny and his restaurants are doing really well. We’ve had a lot of laughs. He’s also incredibly gracious.

Kevin O’Leary: Some people may find it hard to believe, but he has a really sharp sense of humour. He’s a very curious guy. Our styles are opposite. I try to be positive and uplifting. He’s a little more blunt. And we’ve had a few arguments. I didn’t always appreciate his approach. I felt you could be critical of someone’s idea without getting personal. But Kevin and I have stayed in touch and are friends.

On playing a wealthy barber in CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries: “They rolled me in as a barber who owned all the downtown real estate. It was hard work. I thought it would be walk on and give a line. And then I realized acting is really hard work. It’s easy to memorize lines, but trying not to bump into the furniture while saying your lines is tricky. I rehearsed and practised like crazy because I didn’t want to slow them down. Fortunately I’m keeping my day job.

Tony Wong/Toronto Star/April, 2015