Doughty was born in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Doughty Hanson & Co traces its history back to 1985 when Doughty and Richard Hanson began working together on European investments. Doughty completed his Cranfield BA in 1984 and became a Distinguished Alumnus of the Cranfield School of Management in 2004. He made a personal donation in 2006 to establish the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management. He was also President of The Cranfield Trust. Doughty was a Trustee of the Doughty Family Foundation and the Doughty Hanson Charitable Foundation.
Doughty was an Assistant Treasurer of the Labour Party and Chairman of the current Small Business Taskforce policy review. He was a member of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Doughty bought control of Nottingham Forest F.C. for £11 million in 1999. After the departure of Steve McClaren as Forest manager in October 2011, Doughty announced his decision to step down as Forest chairman by the end of the 2011–12 season. Doughty's son Michael is a professional footballer.