Richard Farleigh: from maths boffin to dragon

Richard Farleigh – best known for his stint in the BBC show Dragons' Den – used his talent for maths to make his first million working for a bank's derivatives team.

"After university I was offered a scholarship to study a PhD in maths and economics at Princeton. It was a flattering offer, but I didn't want to spend the rest of my life calculating a co-efficient in a massive equation." So he took up an offer to join Bankers Trust of Australia "the most profitable bank in the world at the time". Coming from a pretty modest background he was brought up in foster care after falling ill living with his traveller family in the outback "I was eager to prove myself and earn some money".

Farleigh struggled with banking initially, but then had a lucky break when he was put in the newly formed derivatives team. "I found that my maths helped me price risk. Back then, computers were much less common, so being able to work out complex calculations gave me a competitive edge over a lot of my rivals." Ten years later Farleigh left to take up "a very lucrative" post managing a fund for wealthy individuals in Bermuda. Then, "at the top of the hedge-fund business", Farleigh quit. "I was 34, I had enough money to be comfortable so I thought I may as well enjoy life."

He moved to Monaco and spent "a few years cruising the Mediterranean, playing tennis and writing a book". He also represented the principality in international chess tournaments. Bizarrely, that brought him out of his "semi-retirement".

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Brian Clivaz, manager of restaurant and chess venue Simpsons on the Strand, wanted to create a members' club in London and needed a backer. Farleigh "jumped at the chance", as he felt there were lots of ways he could change "London's stuffy club scene". He hated the traditional dress code in members' clubs and the 'no girls' policy. Determined to create a "different type of members' club", the pair chose a dilapidated Georgian mansion in London's Portman Square.

"People said that we were the wrong side of Oxford Street and that an exclusive members' club should be in Mayfair." Restoring Home House "ended up being twice as expensive and taking twice as long as we had thought", although Farleigh reckons "that applies for almost any business project".

When the club finally opened it was a hit, attracting 1,000 members paying fees of up to £1,500 per year. In 2004 Farleigh, who was the club chairman, decided to sell up. "It was time for the club to expand internationally, but I didn't feel ready to commit to that." A few years later, he became involved in Dragons' Den. He has now left the show, but has still received around 7,000 emails since.

"Only about three were interesting I don't know if that says something about me, or about some of the budding entrepreneurs out there."

One idea he liked is H2O, a new advisory broker. Farleigh only agreed to come on board knowing he could implement his own strategies. "There are some good managers out there but a lot of the rest follow the herd and fleece their clients. An intelligent retail investor with access to market trends and trading strategy data could outperform most of them."

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.