Gary Neville’s addition to Dragon’s Den line-up leaves fans divided as Man United legend is unveiled as judge on BBC show
The unveiling of Manchester United legend Gary Neville as a judge on Dragon’s Den has left football fans somewhat divided.
The 48-year-old, who has built up his own ‘business empire’ since retiring from football, has joined the show as a guest judge alongside businesswoman Emma Grede. The BBC released the first glimpse of Neville on the set today.
Neville, who played over 600 times for Man United and earned 85 caps for England, will appear alongside regular tycoons Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies and Steven Bartlett
Despite several business ventures ranging from part-owning League Two club Salford City with his former team-mates to his luxury Manchester hotels, some have questioned whether the Red Devil has what it takes to become a dragon.
Some fans could not help but make digs about Man United’s takeover woes – which Neville has been extremely vocal about himself. The unpopular Glazer family, who own Man United, were expected to sell the club but after nearly a year of discussions, it looks as though Sir Jim Ratcliffe will only acquire a 25 per cent stake.
One person on X, formerly known as Twitter, mimicked the phrase used by the dragons to reject bids, posting: ‘Like most people to do with Manchester United – I won’t be investing I’m out.’
The unveiling of Manchester United legend Gary Neville as a judge on Dragon’s Den has left football fans somewhat divided
The 48-year-old, who has built up his own ‘business empire’ since retiring from football, has joined the BBC show as a guest judge alongside businesswoman Emma Grede (pictured)
Long-term judge Deborah Meaden commended Neville on his first appearance which was appreciated by the former United captain
On Saturday, Qatari Sheik Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani pulled out of a process which began last November. His group had offered to buy 100 per cent of the club and invest heavily on players and infrastructure.
Another football fan joked about the failed takeover, writing: ‘Did the Glazers come and pitch the idea that Utd was a club worth investing in.’
And a third said: ‘Gary Neville is set to star in the new series of Dragons Den. He’s going to use everything he learned from his time at Manchester United. He will end up overpaying for rubbish and up to his eyeballs in debt.’
Several fans appeared to be disappointed with Neville’s role as a judge, with one posting: ‘Just don’t take any managerial advice from him’. The Sky Sports pundit had an infamously poor stint at Spanish side Valencia where his side won just 10 games out of 28.
But others were quick to defend Neville and thought he was a great addition to the Dragons Den team.
One user wrote: ‘Good luck to him top pundit.’ Another said: ‘What’s the problem with that [him as a judge]?’
A third said: ‘@GNev2 is a great example of ambition, determination, hard work !! Huge fan, looking forward to watching the program! Wish I could meet one of my idols one time 🙁 !’
Some social media users targeted Neville over Manchester United’s takeover woes over the last year, while others joked about his poor managerial record at Spanish side Valencia
Long-term judge Deborah Meaden commended Neville on his first appearance, posting: ‘A first next year in @BBCDragonsden when we have some guest Dragons… first up @GNev2 who was utterly brilliant and owned that chair!!’
Neville replied to her warm tweet, writing: ‘Thank you Deborah. I loved it and can’t thank you and all the dragons enough for welcoming me.’
Since retiring from football in 2011, Gary has built a vast property development portfolio that nets him tens of millions a year.
Among his major enterprises is Hotel Football, a luxury hotel overlooking Old Trafford, and The Stock Exchange Hotel near Piccadilly Gardens, one of the top hotels in Manchester, alongside former team-mate Ryan Giggs.
It’s not all been plain-sailing for the ex-footballer though. The new restaurant inside his Stock Exchange Hotel closed just four months after opening its doors in July.
And he has also faced setbacks amid claims one of his high-end Manchester hotels lost £3.2million over the pandemic and owed ‘£10million in loans’.
But others backed Neville to do well, with one hailing him as a ‘great example of ambition, determination, hard work’
Dragon Gary Neville’s ‘business empire’
- Started as a property developer while still playing at Man United
- Co-owns League Two Salford City with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and brother Phil, plus Peter Lim
- Owns The Stock Exchange Hotel, one of the top hotels in Manchester, alongside former team-mate Giggs
- University UA92 is ‘disrupting the traditional model’ as it helps disadvantaged young people
- Lucrative £120million St Michael’s property development is being built in Manchester city centre
- His Overlap YouTube series raked in £180,000 in profit last year
Neville has also been slated in the past for advertising for workers on minimum wage to staff one of his luxury hotels – which can charge more than £800 a night for a suite.
In a teaser of Neville’s first appearance as a judge, the former United captain donned a sharp navy blue suit jacket and charcoal black trousers.
Meanwhile Grede, 41, looked flawless in a space grey smart suit. She is the co-founder and CEO of Good American, which she established in 2016 alongside Khloé Kardashian. She’s also the founding partner of shapewear brand SKIMS.
The BBC has not yet revealed when the season will air in 2024 but Meaden suggested it will be ‘early in the New Year’.
The programme, which first aired on BBC Two in 2005, gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas to some of Britain’s most successful people in business.
Speaking about the opportunity, Neville said: ‘It’s a pleasure to join the Dragons as a guest for the new series and see some of the amazing pitches from budding entrepreneurs from different walks of life.
‘It was a privilege to share my knowledge and guidance with the brave entrepreneurs who entered the Den, but you’ll have to wait and see whether I committed to any investments!’
Grede said: ‘Being back in the UK and joining this series as a Guest Dragon has been amazing and feels very full circle to me.
Neville’s enterprises include Hotel Football, a luxury hotel overlooking Old Trafford, and The Stock Exchange Hotel near Piccadilly Gardens, one of the top hotels in Manchester, alongside former team-mate Ryan Giggs. Pictured: Hotel Football
The Dragons: They will sit alongside Peter Jones (far right), Deborah Meaden (third from left), Touker Suleyman (far left), Sara Davies (second left), and Steven Bartlett (middle)
‘Being able to share my own knowledge from the business I’ve built with the entrepreneurs is so important, there’s a lot of major talent in this upcoming series, and I hope it inspires the next generation to create opportunities for themselves.’
Samantha Davies, executive producer at BBC Studios, said: ‘In our 21st series it’s hugely exciting to bring a fresh, new dynamic to the Den in the form of guest Dragons.
‘Gary and Emma are both masters in their fields and it’ll be fantastic to see their different styles and perspectives in the business world.
‘But our existing Dragons aren’t just going to sit back and let them snap up all the best deals, so viewers can expect all the usual competitiveness and sass in the Den.’
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