Born in Bristol, Clarke was educated at Rugby School. He then went studied at Oriel College, University of Oxford where graduated with an MA in Persian with Arabic; reportedly he paid his way through by way of his exploits at gambling. He then spent a year at the University of Damascus Arabic language school.
Clarke began his career as an investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston. In 1981 he bought from receivership the assets of what was to become Majestic Wine, where, as chairman, he built it into a UK national chain. From August 1987 to May 1988, Clarke was chairman of Majestic Wine Corporation Inc, a United States company which owned a chain of 104 stores trading as Liquor Barn in California and Arizona. Following disposal of the US based businesses, he sold the UK plc business of Majestic Wines for £15 million in 1989.
In 1990, Clarke founded Pet City, where, as CEO, he built it into a chain of 94 stores (also dressing up at Xmas in the Swindon Store). After making the business public in 1995, he sold the business for £150 million in 1996 to US based PetsMart. In 1998, Clarke founded Safestore, building it into the UK's third largest self storage company, selling it to Bridgepoint Capital for £44million in August 2003. In 1999 Mr Clarke became CEO of Stepstone, an online career portal. Since he came on board, the company has raised NKr1.8bn ($197m) from the IPO in 2000 and grew from four countries and 200 employees to a staff of 1,385 in 18 countries.
Clarke is currently Chairman and controlling shareholder, via his company Westleigh Investments, of:
- ATL Telecom – Cardiff based data transmission design equipment company, which manufactures in China
- Fosters Event Catering – a West Country-based independent caterer
- CCI International – the UK's largest clay pigeon equipment manufacturer
- West Country Business Systems – develops software systems for managing independent schools.
- Boston Tea Party – a West Country-based chain of coffee shops
- Clarke is the non-executive deputy chairman of Pure Wafer plc – presently the only European based silicon chip test wafer reclaim company
Giles Clarke has served with the following public bodies:
- 2002–2007 As a National Council member of the Learning and Skills Council, the largest quango in the UK with a budget of £10 billion, responsible for all UK adult learning. and a member of the Adult Learning Committee, a statutory body set up by the UK Parliament.
- Clarke was Deputy Chair of the EU Task Force on Skills and Mobility and presented its report to the Barcelona Summit in 2002.
- Deputy Chairman of the Bristol Old Vic theatre until 2007.
- Patron of Changing Faces, the UK national charity supporting and representing people with disfigurement.
- Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, Bristol (2011)
A keen club cricketer, Clarke became chairman of Somerset County Cricket Club, becoming instrumental in developing the club both on and off field and consulting experts including Sir Ian Botham. He resultantly became a non-executive director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and as Chairman of Marketing led the negotiations for their new four-year TV and radio broadcasting rights deal signed with BSkyB, Five and the BBC in December 2004. On 25 September 2007 Clarke was voted in as Chairman of the ECB, re-elected in 2009, and again in March 2012 for a further three years. In April 2015 Clarke was nominated as the ECB's first president, with the intention that president's primary role would be to represent ECB on the International Cricket Council's executive board.
Married to Judy, the couple have a son Jack – after whom the brasserie in Bristol is named. A family man and protective of his private life, when his name appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List in the mid-1990s, Clarke took steps to protect his financial interests from the public.
- Bio at CricInfo
- The incoming chairman of the ECB promises to be more controversial, more decisive and far more outspoken The Times, 26 September 2007
- Entrepreneurs Question Time SetSquared – 4 October 2007
- About Us: National Council – C Giles Clarke Learning & Skills Council
- tecc-IS plc – Directorate Change digitallook.com – 12 December 2003
- How to lose a fortune in two years Independent – 24 February 1999
- Soros makes a loss in Safestore's £40m management buyout Independent – 22 August 2003
- ATL Telecom announces £20 million 3 year contract to provide enhancements to BT’s KiloStream network ATL Telecom
- Interview with Giles Clarke – West Country Financier and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ATL Telecom Ltd Commonwealth Government & Business Guide to Information and Communication Technology
- Fosters spread the word and their Wings Fosters Catering – 14 February 2007
- About Us CCI International
- About Us Pure Wafer plc
- Market profile – Energised: Giles Clarke The Telegraph – 21 May 2007
- ECB TV rights deal with Sky and Five ECB – 16 December 2004
- Clarke wins ECB chairmanship vote BBC Sport – 25 September 2007
- "Giles Clarke CBE, DL - ECB chairman". ECB website. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Clarke nominated as first ECB President". ECB. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2011.
- "New Year honours list: GBEs, DBEs and CBEs". London: The Guardian. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.