The dragon who came from the Aussie Outback

RICHARD Farleigh is probably best known for his appearances on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. He should, however, be known for being a foster care kid who went on to be one of the world’s richest hedge fund managers in the 1990s, and then a successful entrepreneurial investor with brands like Net-a-Porter and Reggae Reggae Sauce to his name.

I meet him in Home House, another one of his successful creations. “I’ve invested in over 70 businesses,” Farleigh tells me, “but Home House is the one I’m most attached to.” He explains that Home House, a private members club in Portman Square, is his legacy. Apt, considering he and the club are known for their relaxed approach.

“I’m probably a good example of an entrepreneur who shouldn’t have been an entrepreneur: I never had a lemonade stand and never showed any talent as a risk taker growing up. It’s odd that I because a risk taker in finance because as an economist I didn’t want to risk anything – then I got forced into doing it working at an investment bank and got quite good at it.”

Indeed, Farleigh started working life at the Reserve Bank of Australia. His aptitude for economics won him a scholarship with the Bank to study at the University of New South Wales. He was offered PhD funding from Stanford University but opted to give investment banking a go.

He was good at it too. “With an economics background I was pretty sharp at it. I made money for that bank close to ten years in a row.”

It wasn’t long, however, before a secretive billionaire in Bermuda snapped him up to run a fund for him.

“I did it for a couple of years, but then decided that I was just a kid from the Outback, I didn’t need any more money.” With that, he packed his bags and moved to Monaco. “I had retired at 34. I bought a Ferrari, a boat off Michael Schumacher, hung around in nightclubs a bit. But somehow I got involved in businesses with universities.”

He worked with Oxford University, developing technologies. “They were a bit like the guys on Dragons’ Den, but they had been working on their projects for 10 years and were ready to value at £50,000.” Many of their inventions were revolutionary, but Farleigh brushes over it. “I did a bit of that, then this place [Home House], did a bit for the BBC about it, then ended up on Dragons’ Den.”

Could he go back to corporate life? “I’d have trouble,” he admits. “One of my best friends is very senior in one of the big banks. He jokes around and calls me unemployable these days. I couldn’t be put back into that box.”

Farleigh didn’t make his money through luck alone. He used his economic knowledge and the techniques detailed in his book 100 Secret Strategies for Investing. Come hear him speak at the H20 free trading seminar on Friday 23 September at The Grange Hotel, 10 Goliman Street, London. Visit to book a place.

Successful investments: Over 70 including Home House, Net-a-Porter, Wolson Microelectronics, Green Chemicals, IP Group and Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Failed investments: “A diamond mine, an algae growing and a bra company.”

Amount invested: “Anywhere from £10,000 to over £5m spread over time.”

Age: 50

Born: Kyabram, Australia

Lives: Belgravia, London

Studied: Economics and mathematics, University of New South Wales

Motto: “Do unto others...”

Reading: “Biographies.”

Idol: “Anyone who overcomes the odds. Beethoven writing his ninth deaf, is pretty hard to beat.”

Talents: “Chess Master, average but keen, on tennis and skiing.”

First ambition: “To be a bush ranger like Ned Kelly, then a chess hustler.”