'Dragons' Den' judge burnt by Red Letter woes

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One of the quartet of judges on the BBC TV show Dragons' Den is poised to dip into his personal fortune to salvage Red Letter Days, a company owned by Rachel Elnaugh, a fellow judge.

Peter Jones, the telecoms entrepreneur with an estimated £300m fortune, has emerged as Ms Elnaugh's potential saviour after the near-collapse of the business she founded 16 years ago. He met executives from Red Letter Days over the weekend to discuss a possible takeover of the business, which sells vouchers for unusual days out, from medieval-style jousting to mountain climbing.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the likelihood of a deal, saying only that Mr Jones "would make a statement tomorrow".

The collapse of Red Letter Days would be embarrassing for the BBC, which champions Ms Elnaugh as one of the business experts who dispense advice - and cash - on its reality show for budding entrepreneurs. The corporation has filmed a second series of Dragons' Den, which also stars Duncan Bannatyne and Doug Richard.

Red Letter Days ran into trouble after changes to its accounting procedures under the new IFRS rules, which left it unable to pay its suppliers. The company wrote to its suppliers several weeks ago asking for their patience but any goodwill has worn thin for many. Thruxton Motorsport Centre and Everyman Motor Racing Activities will stop accepting Red Letter Days vouchers from next week, claiming the company owes them "substantial" sums.

Bill Coombs, who runs the driving school at Thruxton, said he had been put in a "very difficult position". He added that it had become "commercially unsustainable" to honour the vouchers because he does not get paid by Red Letter Days until their customer has completed their driving day.

More than £3m of payments are held in bond by Barclays Bank. It was unclear last night why the bank had not released any of the funds.

At Red Letter Days' London headquarters in Muswell Hill, London, the only person there said she could take voucher bookings but not confirm whether the company was solvent.

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