Theo Paphitis is one of the UK’s most high profile businessmen with an empire spanning retail, property, finance and consumer goods.
Born in Cyprus, his family moved to Britain in the 1960s and Theo showed his business skills from an early age when he successfully ran the tuck shop at his North London school. His formal working career started as an assistant to 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 into Europe.
He has also revived the fortunes of notable retail brands such as La Senza Lingerie (UK), Contessa Lingerie, Ryman, Partners the Stationers and Stationery Box. He sold his interest in the La Senza UK business and Contessa in 2006.
In 2008, he combined the stationery businesses to launch a new chain, Ryman Stationery (ryman.co.uk) where he is now Chairman.
Along with co-owner Peter Jones, Theo salvaged Red Letter Days (redletterdays.co.uk) from administration. Theo is also an investor in Smarta, the business support and advice network for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Theo launched the highly innovative new lingerie business (bouxavenue.com) in spring 2011. There are seventeen UK stores (as at March 2013), plus three international stores, and the company continues to expand with new store openings.
In July 2012, Theo added the 96-store homeware chain (robertdyas.co.uk) to his retail portfolio. Theo’s retail group now includes almost 350 stores nationwide, with 3,600 employees serving over 28 million customers a year.
Theo is probably best known for his role on Dragons' Den. He appeared on the hit BBC Two show for nine series between 2005 and 2012, advising many hopeful entrepreneurs and investing in several innovative business ideas.
In addition, in 2011 Theo presented a seven part BBC Two series called Britain's Next Big Thing, where he went behind closed doors at some of the biggest names in UK retail to expose the fascinating world of buying. He also presented Theo’s Adventure Capitalists, where he followed the fortunes of British companies trying to expand into three of the world’s most dynamic emerging markets – India, Brazil and Vietnam.
In October 2010 Theo created Small Business Sunday on Twitter, inviting his 300,000 followers to Tweet him about their businesses every Sunday using the hashtag #SBS and retweeting his six favourite.
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.
The Paphitis Charitable Trust distributes his fees from TV appearances, speeches and his book to causes close to his heart, in particular charities associated with children. With his colleagues at Ryman stationery, Theo has helped raise £1.5 million for Comic Relief.
He has three Honorary Doctorates – from the University of Middlesex, University of Huddersfield and Southampton Solent University. These are in recognition of his belief that it is important to enjoy learning in its broadest possible sense.
Theo lives in Surrey with his wife Debbie. They have five children and four grandchildren.