‘Dragon’ James Caan plans to invest in three Irish recruitment companies

Entrepreneur seeking out recruiters the engineering and healthcare space

James Caan   in the Westin Hotel, Dublin. The  British entrepreneur  is looking to invest in three additional Irish recruitment companies. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

James Caan in the Westin Hotel, Dublin. The British entrepreneur is looking to invest in three additional Irish recruitment companies. Photograph: Aidan Crawley


British entrepreneur James Caan is looking to invest in three additional Irish recruitment companies as he deploys up to £40 million (€46.3 million) as part of a strategy to create a recruitment group with about 60 constituent companies.

The former Dragons’ Den investor is specifically seeking out recruiters in the engineering and healthcare space in which he would take a majority stake. Mr Caan has already invested in four Irish companies including financial recruiter Darwin Hawkins, established late last year by former PwC accountant Niall O’Kelly and former Deloitte accountant Mark Baker.

Mr Caan (58) is also involved in the technology and fast-moving consumer goods sectors across the island of Ireland.

Asked about his strategy, Mr Caan said: “I don’t do anything in halves. In the last three years I’ve invested in 17 companies, I plan to invest in 60.”

He added that the group, when created, will likely have about 1,200 staff and 100 offices dotted around the world.


“The pipeline is looking very good, expansion is very strong. We’ve a brilliant pipeline in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Germany. ”

The investor amassed his wealth through the foundation, and subsequent sale, of recruitment company Alexander Mann. Since then he has established other recruitment companies and invested in a series of other ventures such as health clubs and at one point a sandwich chain.

Mr Caan, a remain voter, said his investments in the Republic are a way to hedge his bets in relation to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

“My view is the Irish economy is doing really well, I think the sentiment is really strong, employment is at an all-time high. I see lots of global international brands coming to Ireland to set up shop here so I’m extremely confident of the economic environment as we see it today,” he told The Irish Times.

“I think, in the event that Britain leaves the European Union, I believe that Ireland will be a benefactor for that,” he added, calling it a “win-win situation” from an economic perspective.

“I’m working on the basis that there will be an outcome but I want to be in before, not after, because whatever the outcome is will stimulate activity and you have to be positioned to take advantage of that.

‘War on talent’

“Investing in Ireland right now, for me, is the right time because I believe, rightly or wrongly, that Ireland will benefit either way,” he added.

With the Republic’s tightening labour market, Mr Caan’s investments seek to take advantage of what he called a “war on talent” which is likely to lead to “incredible wage inflation”.

His investments thus far have sought out individuals rather than businesses which has led him to pick up 51 per cent stakes across his Irish investments which include Hayward Hawk, 360 Search and Darwin Hawkins.

His investment horizon with the companies in which he has invested is between five and seven years, he said, noting that he could achieve significant scale in that timeframe.

“In order to attract the kind of premium value you need, you need scale. In recruitment, scale is what pays,” he said, noting the re-sale of Alexander Mann Solutions by Dubliner Rosaleen Blair for €930 million.