Theo Paphitis is one of the UK’s most high profile businessmen with an empire spanning retail, property and finance.
Born in Cyprus, his family moved to Britain in the 1960s and 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 and 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 launched the highly innovative new lingerie business Boux Avenue (bouxavenue.com) in spring 2011. There are currently 28 stores (as at July 2017), plus a range of 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 over 4000 employees serving over 28 million customers a year. In November 2016 Theo acquired iconic arts brand the London Graphic Centre (londongraphics.co.uk).
Theo is probably best known for his role on BBC TV’s 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 and Theo’s Adventure Capitalists. He now contributes to The One Show on a regular basis, as well as appearing in numerous current affairs and news programmes as a guest.
Theo is also a small business champion in the UK, and in October 2010 created Small Business Sunday on Twitter. He invites his 500,000+ followers to Tweet him about their businesses every Sunday using the hashtag #SBS and retweeting his six favourite. There are now over 2000 small businesses in this network.
Theo’s life story – Enter the Dragon – is published by Orion Books in paperback and 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 Robert Dyas and Ryman, Theo has helped raise over £4 million for Comic Relief.
He has four Honorary Doctorates – from the University of Middlesex, University of Huddersfield, Southampton Solent University and Staffordshire 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 six grandchildren, and Gladys the dog, who is regularly seen in the office.