Theo Paphitis is one of the UK’s most high profile businessmen. His empire spans retail, property, finance and consumer goods.
The famous entrepreneur was born in Cyprus. His family emigrated to Britain in the 1960s and Theo showed his business skills at the tender age of 15 when he was put in charge of his North London school’s tuck shop, achieving notable success. His formal working career started as an assistant to the tea boy with a Lloyds of London broker before moving into retail at the age of 18. He then moved into property and corporate finance, setting up his own company aged just 23.
He was Chairman of Millwall FC for eight years, taking the club out of administration and into the Championship and to the FA Cup Final v Manchester United and into Europe.
He has also revived the fortunes of notable retail brands such as Ryman, La Senza Lingerie (UK), Contessa Lingerie, Partners the Stationers and Stationery Box. He sold his interest in La Senza and Contessa in 2006 and now retains a minority shareholding. In 2008, he combined the stationery businesses to launch a new chain, Ryman Stationery (www.ryman.co.uk ) where he is now Chairman.
Another high profile venture is Red Letter Days, the company he salvaged out of administration with fellow Dragon, Peter Jones.
Theo’s life story – Enter the Dragon – is published by Orion Books in paperback. It gives an insight into the thoughts and aspirations of one of the UK’s most popular entrepreneurs.
Through his appearances on Dragons’ Den, now in its seventh series, Theo has advised many young entrepreneurs and invested in several innovative businesses and brands. The Paphitis Charitable Trust distributes all of his fees from TV appearances, speeches and his book to causes close to his heart, in particular charities associated with children.
Earlier this year, Theo was appointed patron for Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, which is committed to driving up skills levels in the industry. His special areas of responsibility are as the Retail Apprentices’ Champion and for the new National Skills Academy for Retail.
Theo was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Middlesex in recognition of his belief that it is important to enjoy learning in its broadest possible sense.
Theo has also been appointed to the International Advisory Board of Marvel Entertainment where he will help strengthen the international business and develop the Marvel brand on a global level.
Theo lives in Surrey with his wife Debbie. They have five children and three grandchildren.