MBE for Dragons' Den star (Shame her business has just gone under)

Kevin Rawlinson
Saturday 13 June 2009 00:00 BST

She was the teary entrepreneur who five years ago spectacularly proved the Dragons wrong when they refused to invest in her board game Destination London which she invented to take on the giant of Monopoly.

Since then Rachel Lowe claims to have gone on to make millions from her idea and today adds an MBE to her list of accolades for services to business, in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

But an Independent investigation has revealed that things may not be as rosy as they seem. Documents filed at Companies House last month show the Portsmouth entrepreneur has put her company, RTL Games Ltd, into administration with debts of thousands of pounds.

She claims the company went bust after her plans to release a Harry Potter board game were hit by delays. However one shareholder who has lost around £90,000 after investing in the business, claims that while Ms Lowe is extremely talented at public relations, he does not consider that she possesses sufficient know-how to run a large business.

Ms Lowe, a former cab driver who has two children, first came to prominence when she pitched her idea of the Destination London board game on the BBC TV show Dragons' Den in 2004. She was reduced to tears and went away with nothing when she struggled to answer questions about the company's projected finances and was unable to describe the difference between gross and net profit.

But the publicity generated by the show helped her launch the game – and a series of spin-offs – and led her to boast: "The Dragons must be kicking themselves now. It feels good to show them they got it wrong."

Since then things have taken a turn for the worst. Ms Lowe said that RTL was placed into administration after the delayed release of the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hit its cash flow.

She said the company secured a deal with Warner Bros to produce Destination Hogwarts on the back of the film. However, the delay left RTL Games unable to meet creditors' demands for payment. The company was placed in administration at the end of May and receivers were called in. "I was gutted when the film was moved," she said, adding: "What should have been a big break has had the opposite effect."

But Paul McCormick, a barrister who invested around £90,000 of his savings in RTL Games and faces losing all his money, said the company had not been run as efficiently as it might have been. "When I first met Rachel I thought she was a motivated and bright young woman who would know how to run a successful company. But I have since changed my mind," Mr McCormick said. "My suspicion is that the shares are now completely worthless."

Yesterday, Duncan Bannatyne, one of the Dragons who turned Ms Lowe down said, he was not surprised by the company's demise.

"The accounts showed it was not making money at the time," he said.

But Ms Lowe said she remains confident of making a phoenix-like rise from the ashes. "We are working closely with the administrators, it's their job to find either a buyer for the company or a new investor to help us take the brand forward. We have had lots of positive interest."

And she is at least proud of her MBE. "I think the MBE is for all of the work I have done to promote entrepreneurship and to help people achieve their dreams," she told The Independent.

"I am quite passionate about promoting education and enterprise."

The List: From Dracula to Delia

The golfer Nick Faldo and the veteran horror actor Christopher Lee took their place among hundreds of other notables being rewarded with knighthoods, MBEs and other honours. Faldo and Lee were both knighted, while The Royle Family actress Sue Johnston and Hollywood star Alan Cumming were both honoured with OBEs. Delia Smith was given a CBE for services to the food industry, and there were knighthoods for the former poet laureate Andrew Motion and Christopher Ricks, who will shortly step down as professor of poetry at Oxford University. The fashion designer Jeff Banks was made a CBE and Natalie Massenet, the founder of the online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter, was made an MBE.

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