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Dragon invests in online recruitment company

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: March 12, 2009

Marlene Howels, of Foot Anstey, with Jay Cholewinsky, Phil Roebuck and Matt Cummings, at the new Webrecruit offices at Matford Park. Inset: James Caan Gabriel Szabo/apexnewspix.com -

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ONE of Britain's best known entrepreneurs will be helping an Exeter-based online recruitment firm to expand after investing in the company.

James Caan, a regular panellist on hit BBC programme Dragons' Den and chief executive of private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, has taken a 25 per cent stake in Webrecruit for an undisclosed sum.

He also becomes chairman of the company.

Directors of the fast- growing firm, which employs 17 people at its headquarters at Matford Park, on Marsh Barton, concluded a deal within a month of making a direct approach to Mr Caan.

The news comes as the Echo's Exeter Bites Back campaign highlights local companies which are thriving despite the economic downturn.

Managing director Phil Roebuck, who founded the business in 2001, said: "When the recession started to hit, we knew this was an opportunity to get somebody to help us capitalise on what was coming up.

"We sat down and in a short space of time James was at the top of our list, because of his previous success in the recruitment industry.

"We wanted to get him on board to take us to the next level.

"The profile he brings to the organisation will give clients reassurance that we do put our money where our mouth is."

Webrecruit helps businesses across the country recruit staff for a flat fee, offering a money-back guarantee, and last year found jobs for more than 3,000 candidates.

Echoing Mr Roebuck's comments, Mr Caan said: "I've been in recruitment for 25 years and Webrecruit is the first company to really put their money where their mouth is.

"Given the current economic climate, the money- back concept is very fitting for the times."

Mr Caan's investment will partly be used to fund technological developments.

Mr Roebuck said: "The kudos, his experience and profile were more important to us than any cash injection.

"We are a successful business, our turnover has been growing organically by 30 to 40 per cent year on year and last year was just short of £2m.

"James and I will be working really closely over the next few weeks, raising the profile of the company and building the brand.

"We are going to have contact three or four times a month and then a board meeting every month."

On the process of targeting Mr Caan, he said: "I knew going into his den would be daunting but always believed he would see the value of the opportunity. I was surprised how fast it happened.

"I'm sure he won't mind me saying that this dragon is just as ferocious outside the den as he is in it, but his obvious passion for people is second to none.

"He clearly thought the management team was dynamic, and that was reassuring for all of us that we were on the right path."

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