Holly Willoughby has left Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones fuming by pulling out of their lucrative lifestyle brand business at the last minute – to focus on her own new bumper contracts with Marks & Spencer and ITV.
Sources say Jones was ‘furious’ when TV’s golden girl admitted during a tense meeting on Tuesday at the headquarters of his business empire in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, that her new deals – worth up to £1.5 million – meant she no longer had enough time to devote to their homewear and accessories brand Truly.
The business had been likened to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand and was tipped to double Willoughby’s estimated £11 million fortune.
As Willoughby took to Instagram to announce she was leaving Truly, Jones jetted out of Britain to head for one of his holiday homes.
A source said: ‘Truly was by far the top of Holly’s priorities. It was going to be her long-term future that would see her through the next couple of decades.
‘Her decision to pull out left everyone involved absolutely stunned. Nobody could believe what was happening on Tuesday, it was so close to the launch.
‘There is a warehouse full of goods at the Marlow HQ which are ready to be sold.’
Experts believe the departure of the This Morning presenter, who is among Britain’s most bankable stars, could cost the firm millions due to hefty investment in products ranging from cushions and candles to clothing and homewear, and the potential for further delays to its launch.
And it could mean the end of a long friendship. Mother-of-three Willoughby and husband Dan Baldwin have been close to Jones and his wife Tara Capp for ten years.
Willoughby set up Truly with Capp in 2016 and Jones, 52, joined as chairman in March.
The couples holiday together and Jones has a 40 per cent stake in Baldwin’s TV production firm.
Willoughby is to become a brand ambassador for M&S and will replace Ant McPartlin as host of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity.
A source close to Jones said last night ‘We wouldn’t comment on his business affairs.’