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Dragons' Den success for sculptor

James Caan and Guy Portelli with Jimi Hendrix sculpture
James Caan and Guy Portelli with Jimi Hendrix sculpture

A sculptor is laughing all the way to the bank after scooping £80,000 on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den - £10,000 more than he wanted.

Grandfather-of-three Guy Portelli, was given the money for a 25 per cent share in his series of metal sculptures Pop Icons; 18 figures of musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Madonna, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

He joins a very small handful of entrepreneurs to leave the den with more than they bargained for.

The deal means the sculptures can go on show at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London next year - which until now was just a distant dream for the former Hugh Christie school pupil. A run of 10 of each of the sculptures will be produced for sale.

Mr Portelli, who had been pitching for just £70,000, accepted the joint bid after tense negotiations with Theo Paphitis, Peter Jones, and James Caan. He turned down a £90,000 offer from Duncan Bannatyne.

Speaking in his studios in St Mary’s Road, Tonbridge, Mr Portelli said the achievement was only just beginning to sink in.

He hopes to be able to take on some extra space to work in, and long term also to be able to employ more staff to help him.

He employs two at present, making sculptures in bronze, glass and stainless steel.

He said: “It means to me I can do the project at the Mall Galleries I have always wanted to do and not feel guilty that I am indulging myself in my own interests. It’s big by anybody’s standards, its big, big, big.

“Some of the 18 pieces are more than six feet tall. I’ve just finished the Jimi Hendrix one, we are doing The Who as well as Madonna. It is very exciting.

“It looks like we will need to expand and create a bigger workshop to keep up with orders. We are getting orders coming in because of the publicity of being on the programme.”

He described appearing on the show and haggling with the experts as a “bewildering” experience.

He said: “I actually felt confused. You spend so much time building up to the pitch, when they suddenly say you have the money you think ‘hang on that’s too easy, where’s the catch’.

“Then they have to wait for everyone else to put their penny’s worth in, with the negotiation and the haggling.

“You have a lot of things happening very quickly, and you are thinking that the next five years of your career will be attached to this decision, you don’t want to align yourself with the wrong team.

“Having said all that I am really pleased how things have worked out.”

Mr Portelli, 51, attended the Medway College of Art in Rochester before working at the BBC’s special effects department. He then set up his own studios in Tonbridge.

He has three grand-daughters and is single.

The biggest exhibition Mr Portelli has ever been involved with was 100 pieces made for the Trafford Centre, Manchester.

He first applied to go on Dragons’ Den after waking up to the idea on Easter morning. Within four weeks he was involved in the filming, much to his surprise.

Dragons’ Den, an international format which was originally launched in Japan, was first broadcast on the BBC in January 2005 and is currently in its sixth series.

Entrepreneurs pitch for investment from five venture capitalists who invest their own money in exchange for equity.

•Kent Messenger readers can see some of Mr Portelli’s work displayed at Pashley Manor, near Ticehurst.

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