Dragons' Den star reveals building his £330m empire was behind split

EXCLUSIVE: New Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, 28, split with an ex-lover after becoming so obsessed with building his £300m empire he didn’t realise they ‘existed’ during the day

The new star of Dragons’ Den split with a former lover because he was so obsessed with work that he refused to engage with her between ‘seven in the morning and nine o’ clock at night’.

Steven Bartlett, a 28-year-old multi-millionaire entrepreneur and the BBC1 show’s youngest ever Dragon, later branded his own actions ‘selfish’ and admitted the relationship ‘fell apart’ because he was so focussed on building up his empire.

It’s understood he has had few enduring relationships because of his intense work drive – and has only finally become involved in a meaningful relationship recently as his empire reached a valuation of £300 million.

‘I’ve got total tunnel vision’: New Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett split with a former lover because he was so obsessed with work that he did not realise anyone outside of his work ‘existed’ between ‘seven in the morning and nine o’ clock at night’

Steven later admitted his dedication to his company until recently has meant he’s been forced to sacrifice his love life, resulting in some fans even questioning his sexuality.

He addressed this on his YouTube channel while discussing the topic ‘Can you be successful and be in a relationship?’ in which he said: ‘I’ve never really told any of you guys if I’m gay or straight or single or bi or taken, and so here is the answer – I’m straight and I’m single.

‘I’ve just come out of a long-term relationship that’s lasted… well, in my mind it’s long-term because I’ve never had a relationship other than this one, for about a year.

‘That relationship was fantastic and all those things that relationships should be but unfortunately because of my lack of time and my lack of mental focus, and the amount of things I have competing for my attention every single day, that relationship fell apart.’

Reflection: The 28-year-old multi-millionaire entrepreneur later branded his actions ‘selfish’ and admitted the relationship ‘fell apart’ because he was so focussed on building his empire

Steven, CEO social media marketing agency The Social Chain, went on to describe how he left his unnamed former girlfriend distraught because he failed to recognise anyone outside his business ‘exists’ while in work mode.

Steven went on: ‘The way it is with me, between the hours of say seven in the morning and nine o’ clock at night, I am in the zone, I’ve got total tunnel vision.

‘I honestly do not realise that there’s anyone else outside of my business and rooms I sit in that exists in terms of my personal and private life.

‘So if my family or girlfriend text me, or message me during the day, the chances of me engaging in that meaningfully in that period is virtually impossible.

‘In the evenings I’m often consumed with the day and I find it hard to switch off and engage with other relationships and that also costs those relationships.’

Past relationships: Steven is private about his love life, sharing only two snaps of himself with someone believed to be an ex-partner during 2015 holidays to Marbella and Ibiza. It is not known if Steven was talking about this relationship during his YouTube video

He added: ‘Nobody likes hurting anyone else and I do feel like in my last relationship in particular, had I known myself better and had I realised the way that I am, I might not have hurt somebody and I feel like a did and I feel my selfishness in terms of my intense focus and all those things ended up hurting somebody and it’s certainly not something I want to do again.’

Steven was speaking in 2017 and claimed his relationship with his former girlfriend started in 2016.

He is notoriously private about his love life, sharing only two pictures of himself with someone believed to be an ex-partner during 2015 holidays to Marbella and Ibiza.

One collage features him kissing an unnamed blonde, who he also briefly videos at a pool party, and the second picture sees him on a Jet-Ski with what appears to be the same girl.

In February last year, while appearing on The High Performance podcast, Steven suggested he had finally learned how to combat his work-life balance and was dating, but did not reveal his partner’s identity.

Businessman: It’s understood Steven has had few enduring relationships because of his drive to create a successful business of his social media marketing agency The Social Chain

Asked by host Jake Humphrey if he was single, Steven replied: ‘No’ and admitted he no longer wants to sacrifice relationships for work – and is passing on that message to his army followers.

He added: ‘It took me a long time to realise that. Maybe I’ve only realised that in the past 12 months and I’ve now started to evangelise about it.

‘I’ve tried to tell all my little hustle porn stars that I think are following me in my wake, to not sacrifice their friends, family and girlfriends.’

Steven, who is behind best-selling book Happy Sexy Millionaire and also hosts a podcast called The Diary of a CEO, was officially announced as the new Dragon on Thursday, replacing Tej Lalvani.

He set up The Social Chain from his bedroom in Manchester having dropped out of university at the age of 22 after just one lecture. He also has another company called Media Chain.

Making history: Steven will become Dragons’ Den’s youngest ever Dragon when he steps in to replace Tej Lalvani, 46 (pictured the other business experts on the hit BBC show)

Steven was born in Botswana before moving briefly to Manchester before relocating to Plymouth with his family when he was 12 months old.

He lived in the Devon town until he was 18 but upbringing time on the South West coast was blighted by his parents’ money problems. He recalled how they were ‘completely bankrupt for 20 years’

His mother had failed businesses, which included hair salons and corner shops, while his father worked ‘four hours away’ in London. He explains: ‘It ruined our childhood. Our house had smashed windows for a decade and a half, and in a middle class area.

‘When you’re the only black kid in a school of 1500 white kids in the countryside and you’re living in a middle class area but your house has grass six-foot high at the back and there’s fridges in the garden and you’re arriving to school in a beat up horrible car that has the door hanging of of it – the sense of inadequacy that creates’.

Steven was expelled from school due to a poor attendance record, which he blames on his early dedication to other businesses he was focussing on, but later managed to enroll on a business degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Read all about it: This year Steven released a book titled Happy Sexy Millionaire and he also hosts a podcast called The Diary Of A CEO

He quit after one lecture and was left broke, living in the notorious inner-city area of Moss Side and forced to live off stolen frozen pizzas.

Steven set up The Social Chain from his bedroom, while also working in call centres to earn extra cash, which has gone on to become a multi-million pound company and funded a lavish lifestyle a world away.

Speaking about joining Dragon’s Den he said: ‘It’s a tremendous honour to join the Den, hopefully representing a new generation of entrepreneurs, inspiring young and specifically under-represented entrepreneurs to follow in my footsteps.’

Steven will join Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Touker Sulleyman and Sara Davis in scrutinising wannabe entrepreneurs and potentially invest in their businesses.

The young millionaire is replacing Tej, 46, who announced that he would not be returning for the show’s 19th season in January. 

Tej, who serves as CEO of the UK’s largest vitamin company Vitabiotics and has an estimated net worth of £390million according to the Sunday Times Rich List, joined the show in 2017.

He said of his decision: ‘After an incredibly enjoyable four years as a Dragon I have decided that this next series will be my last.

‘My commitment to the international growth and expansion of my core business and the numerous investments over the years sadly means I will be unable to dedicate the necessary time moving forward.’

Goodbye: Tej announced in January that he would not be returning for the show’s 19th season and stepped away from the Den following a four-year stint 

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