O'Leary is out. Meet the new cast members of Dragons' Den

O'Leary and Croxon say goodbye


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The next season of CBC’s wildly popular Dragons’ Den will not feature the founder of Lavalife or the self-proclaimed “Mr. Wonderful.” Instead, it will boast a Bay Street bad boy and an acclaimed Vancouver restauranteur.

On March 14, CBC announced that both Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon would not return as on-screen financiers for the ninth season of the show. Replacing them will be Michael Wekerle, the controversial merchant banker and Vikram Vij, the proprietor and chef behind several extremely popular west coast restaurants.

Wekerle started trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange at the age of 18, and his many early successes include early investment in Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). Described on CBC’s website as “Mick Jagger meets Warren Buffet,” he’s garnered headlines as much for his allegedly outlandish behaviour and lavish lifestyle as his investing acumen. He is currently the CEO of merchant banking firm Difference Capital (whose investments include Virgin Gaming, BuildDirect and 2013 PROFIT 500 winners Vision Critical and GuestLogix)

Vij emigrated to Canada in 1989, and five years later opened Vij’s, which has become a favourite restaurant of such influential  connoisseurs as Martha Stewart and Mark Bittman. He has since published cookbooks, released a line of prepackaged curries sold in grocery stores across the country, and appeared as a celebrity chef on several Food Network and CBC programs—enough to earn him the 2011 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

O’Leary, who built his fortune in educational software, had been on Dragons’ Den since the show’s debut in Canada. The bestselling author, (whose attitude towards entrepreneurship is that “business is war“), will continue to makes regular TV appearances on CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange and ABC’s Shark Tank.

Croxon (who recently told PROFIT “you see these very successful entrepreneurs, and they’re crazy“) founded online dating giant Lavalife before starting venture-capital firm Round 13. He joined the cast of Dragons’ Den in 2011.

This is not the first time the titular Dragons on the show have changed. Of the five investors who cast at the show’s debut, only Jim Treliving remains. Over the years, Dragons Jennifer Wood, W. Brett Wilson and Robert Herjavec have left the show. One original Dragon, La Senza founder Lawrence Lewin, passed away after season two.