The Early Years
Theo Paphitis was born in Cyprus. His family emigrated to Britain in the 1960s and he first showed his business skills at the tender age of 15 when he successfully ran his North London school’s tuck shop.
Theo’s first job was as an assistant with a Lloyds of London broker, before moving into retail when he was 18.
He then moved into property and corporate finance, setting up his own company at just 23.
Theo was Chairman of Millwall FC for eight years, taking the club out of administration, into the Championship (to the FA Cup Final opposite Manchester United) and into Europe.
He’s revived the fortunes of such notable retail brands as La Senza, Contessa Lingerie, Ryman, Partners the Stationers and Stationery Box.
He sold his interest in the La Senza and Contessa in 2006.
In 2008, he combined the stationery businesses to form a new chain, Ryman the Stationer where he is now Chairman. The company sponsors the Isthmian football league, called the Ryman Football League.
He also owns Red Letter Days with fellow Dragon, Peter Jones, which he salvaged out of administration, and is an investor in Smarta, the business support and advice network for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
The Paphitis Charitable Trust distributes Theo’s fees from TV appearances, speeches and his book to causes close to his heart, especially children’s charities.
With his 2,200 colleagues at Ryman, he has helped raise in excess of £1,000,000 for Comic Relief, a charity that Theo and the company have supported for three years.
Education and Development
Theo is a 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 the National Skills Academy for Retail.
Theo has also fronted a campaign by the Carbon Trust that is giving away 0% loans to businesses through its Big Business Refit campaign.
He has two Honorary Doctorates, from the University of Middlesex and the University of Huddersfield. These are in recognition of his belief that it is important to enjoy learning in its broadest possible sense.
TV Appearances and Book
Through his appearances on BBC TWO’s Dragons’ Den, Theo has advised many entrepreneurs and invested in several innovative businesses and brands.
He’s also fronted Theo’s Adventure Capitalists, where he follows the fortunes of brave and bold British companies trying to expand in three of the world’s most dynamic emerging markets – India, Brazil and Vietnam.
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.
Theo lives in Surreywith his wife Debbie. They have five children and three grandchildren.