Former Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis says appearances are deceptive – the often combative, even aggressive, nature of the BBC2 show masks the fact the Dragons are actually good friends.

Theo told What’s on TV he’d had dinner with Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Duncan Bannatyne recently. Surprisingly, the successful businessmen and woman were ‘quite happy to ring each other up and talk ideas over and talk about problems and issues’.

The mutual support is a far cry from the competitive nature of the Den, but Theo says it wasn’t always like that. Insecurity in the early days of the long-running entrepreneurial show meant relationships were fractious.

The mood in the Den improved, though. “I think it builds up over time and security,” he said. “Certainly in the Den, early doors, there was pretty much a lack of security among some of the Dragons. That slowly went and as people became more secure in their thinking and positions and everything else, it made it a lot easier.”

Theo left Dragons’ Den in 2012 after eight years, to concentrate on his business empire (which includes the Robert Dyas, Rymans and Boux Lingerie brands), but he paid tribute to the producers who keep the show fresh by changing the dynamics of the Dragons. He said they’d been brilliant in casting the Dragons all along and there was no reason to think they’d get it wrong.

Watch ex Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis talk about his time on the show and his TV career, above.