Luke Johnson (businessman)

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For other people of the same name, see Luke Johnson (disambiguation).
Luke Johnson
Born (1962-02-02) 2 February 1962 (age 53)
Nationality British
Other names Cool Hand Luke[1]
Occupation Entrepreneur
Net worth £220 million (2015)
Children 3
Parent(s) Paul Johnson and Marigold Hunt
Relatives Daniel Johnson (brother)
Website http://www.lukejohnson.org/

Luke Oliver Johnson (born 2 February 1962), is a British serial entrepreneur, best known for his involvement with Pizza Express. He is a former chairman of the Royal Society of Arts and Channel 4. He writes a weekly column for The Sunday Times. Johnson calls himself a "projector", in line with the 17th century term for a man involved in many different businesses.[2]

He is the part owner and chairman of Patisserie Valerie, Gail's Artisan Bakery and Feng Sushi among other businesses. He is a former owner The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheeky restaurants and a former part owner of Giraffe Restaurants.

Early years[edit]

The son of historian Paul Johnson and brother of Daniel Johnson, he spent his early years in Iver, Buckinghamshire, and was educated at the state-owned Langley Grammar School in Langley, Berkshire, and at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Whilst at university Johnson together with fellow student Hugh Osmond (later founder of Punch Taverns) interviewed Richard Branson on his houseboat in London for the student newspaper. This gave the pair the inspiration to go into business and they began running the Era nightclub in Oxford. By the time of graduation he and Osmond were running businesses from software to clubs.

He initially studied medicine but, like Hugh Osmond, only completed the first part of the course, graduating from Oxford University with a BA in Physiological Sciences in 1983. He started his career as a media analyst at stockbroker Grieveson Grant (subsequently Kleinwort Benson Securities).

Business career[edit]

Restaurants and leisure[edit]

A Patisserie Valerie store in Sutton High Street, Sutton, Greater London

In 1993 Johnson and Osmond took control of Pizza Express, with Johnson becoming chairman. They expanded the business from 12 owned restaurants to over 250, and the share price from 40p to over 900p.[3] After selling the business in 1999 Johnson started Signature Restaurants, a ‘crown jewels’ collection of London restaurants which included The Ivy and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo chain. He also started Strada restaurants from scratch, taking the chain to 30 units. He sold both businesses in 2005; the total proceeds from these two disposals were in excess of £90 million.[3]

Whilst chairman of the Belgo group Johnson took part in the BBC programme "Back to the Floor", a programme in which top executives spent a week at the "coal face" of their business. Some reviewers of the programme were uncomplimentary about Johnson.

From 1993 to date, Johnson has been involved as director and/or owner of various companies in retailing, pubs and bars, including Whittard of Chelsea, My Kinda Town and the private companies Giraffe,[4] Patisserie Valerie,[5] Druckers[6] and Baker & Spice.[7] In December 2009, Johnson's investment partnership Risk Capital Partners Ltd acquired the Tootsie's restaurant chain,[8] for which it was awarded the "Deal of the Year" prize at the 2010 Retailer's Retailer Awards ceremony. Johnson also purchased in 2010 a stake in artisan bakery Flour Power City, which supplies restaurants, hotels, and caterers. Flour Power City also operates stalls in locations such as Borough Market in London.

September 2010 saw Johnson purchase Feng Sushi,[9] a London-based chain of Japanese restaurants specialising in home delivery. In the same month he also purchased a majority stake in casual-dining firm Ego Group,[10] which was merged in April 2011 with pizza business Rocket Restaurants to form 3Sixty Restaurants,[11] with Johnson as chairman.

In May 2011, Risk Capital Partners assumed a shareholding in Bread Ltd,[12] a leading artisan baker. The group includes retail bakery and cafe Gail’s, which has thirteen bakeries in London and sells its products through Waitrose, Harvey Nichols and Ocado. In June 2013 he became chairman and 50% owner of Grand Union, a London bar chain.[13]

Johnson is also the majority owner of contract catering firm Genuine Dining.

In May 2015, Risk Capital Partners announced its purchase of a majority stake in Zoggs, the global swimming products brand.[14]

Other business ventures[edit]

Since 2000 Johnson has run Risk Capital Partners Ltd, focusing on private equity deals. Risk Capital Partner's portfolio includes the directory publisher Superbrands, fashion chain East,[15] and GRA, the UK's largest greyhound track owner.[16]

In May 2010 Johnson became a strategic investor in Beer & Partners,[17] the UK's largest business investment agency. He is also a director of two theatre production partnerships, Playful Productions and Fiery Dragons, as well as director of AKA UK, a marketing agency to the live entertainment industry. In Oct 2011 Johnson became a non-executive director of Metro Bank plc.[18] He was a non-executive director of art publisher Phaidon Press from August 2010 to October 2012.[19]

Former investments[edit]

In 1996 Johnson co-founded Integrated Dental Holdings, expanding it to become the UK's largest chain of dental surgeries, with over 500 dentists. The firm was sold in 2006 for over £100 million.[3] From 2004 to 2006 Johnson was director of Dollar Financial Group Inc, a US NASDAQ traded corporation with $80m EBITDA.[3] He was involved in parcel delivery and maritime commerce through Nightfreight and American Port Services.

He served as a non-executive director of Elderstreet VCT plc for ten years. Through Risk Capital Partners, Johnson was a founder, part-owner and director of recruitment business InterQuest Group plc. Risk Capital Partners is also a former investor in advertising and design group Loewy, which was sold in 2006, and formerly a part-owner of fresh fish distributor Seafood Holdings,[20] sold in 2010 for £45m in total. Risk also held a stake in car park technology provider APT controls until 2014.[21][22]

Luke Johnson became Chairman and part-owner of Giraffe Restaurants in 2004. In 2013 he stepped down as Chairman, upon Giraffe's sale to Tesco for a reported £50m.[23]


Business approach[edit]

Among Johnson's business maxims are that, consciously or not, every successful company that he knows has followed kaizen, the Japanese management philosophy of constant, incremental improvements, often driven from the bottom up.[24]

Journalism and media[edit]

Johnson was Chairman of Channel 4 Television Corporation from January 2004[25] to January 2010, during which time he appointed a new CEO, restructured the board and saw the organisation enjoy record ratings, revenues and surplus.

He writes a weekly column on business for the The Sunday Times. He wrote a weekly essay for the Financial Times from 2007 to 2015. From 1998 to 2006 he wrote "The Maverick", a weekly business column for The Sunday Telegraph. An anthology of "The Maverick" columns was published by Harriman House in 2007.[26]

Johnson serves on the advisory board of cultural and political magazine Standpoint.

Other activities[edit]

Johnson is Chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research, assuming the role in August 2013.[27]

He is a former Chairman of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA),[28] completing a three-year term in October 2012. He was governor of The University of the Arts between 2000 and 2006. He was also Chairman of Action on Addiction from 2011 to 2012.[29] In June 2012 Johnson was appointed Chairman of Startup Britain, the national campaign to stimulate start-up growth in the UK.[30] Johnson is also Chairman of Career Colleges, an organisation planning 40 vocational colleges for 14-19-year-olds.[31]

In October 2013 Johnson co-founded and launched the Centre for Entrepreneurs, a non-profit think-tank aiming to address the "...under-represention of entrepreneurs in the public eye" and to "...promote entrepreneurship to government, media, the private sector (including big businesses) and the general public."[32]

With Stephen Lambert and Christopher Hird, Johnson co-produced The Flaw,[33] a 2011 documentary film detailing the events leading up to the financial crash of 2008. The film takes its title from Alan Greenspan's admission to US Congress that he had been mistaken to put so much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets.

Personal[edit]

Johnson is married, with three children (he did not start his family until in his 40s[34]), and lives in London.

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Luke Johnson". Sunday Times Rich List 2008 (London: The Sunday Times). 2008-04-27. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  2. ^ Cummings, Laura (2003-05-15). "Pizza Express entrepreneur looks to the future". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d "About Luke Johnson". 
  4. ^ Shrimpton, David "Ex-PizzaExpress duo invest in Giraffe", CatererSearch.com, 25 March 2004, accessed July 2010.
  5. ^ Whitehead, Jennifer "C4 chairman Johnson buys stake in Patisserie Valerie", Brand Republic, 20 September 2006, accessed 28 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Former Pizza Express man buys Druckers", Growing Business, 31 May 2007, accessed July 2010.
  7. ^ Druce, Chris "Luke Johnson acquires another patisserie chain", "Caterer Search", 25 February 2009, accessed 28 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Johnson eyes Giraffe expansion with Tootsies deal", Growing Business, 13 October 2009, accessed 28 July 2011.
  9. ^ Johnson, Rachel "Luke Johnson buys 92 per cent of Feng Sushi", Big Hospitality, 22 September 2010, accessed 28 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Luke Johnson increases portfolio with Ego Group investment", Business Matters, 14 September 2010, accessed 28 July 2011.
  11. ^ Gibson, Heather "The full 3Sixty", EP Magazine, March 2011, accessed 28 July 2011.
  12. ^ Holmes, Lawrie "Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson to roll out chain of artisan bakeries", This Is Money, 23 June 2011, accessed 29 July 2011.
  13. ^ Goodman, Matthew. "The Sunday Times". Pizza Express king heads for bar. News International. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Dominic O’Connell. "In at the deep end". TheSundayTimes.co.uk. News UK. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Mesure, Susie "Luke Johnson goes East and buys stake in bohemian chain", 'The Independent', 2 March 2006, accessed 29 July 2011.
  16. ^ Bowers, Simon "C4 chairman buys greyhound tracks", '"The Guardian", 1 March 2005, accessed 29 July 2011.
  17. ^ Rees-Mogg, Modwenna "The Angel Deal Of The Decade - Luke Johnson's Investment In Beer & Partners", FreshBusinessThinking.com, 25 September 2010, accessed 28 July 2011.
  18. ^ "Luke Johnson joins Metro Bank board", City A.M., 13 October 2011, accessed 22 Oct 2011.
  19. ^ Gallagher, Victoria "Johnson "does not rule out" Phaidon stake", The Bookseller, 20 August 2010, accessed 29 July 2011.
  20. ^ "Johnson Reportedly Mulls Stake Sale In Seafood", "Bloomberg Businessweek", 19 September 2010, accessed 29 July 2011.
  21. ^ Teather, David "C4 chairman takes middle of the road position", "The Guardian", 16 February 2007, accessed 29 July 2011.
  22. ^ "Risk Capital Partners sells its stake in APT Controls to Swarco AG". RiskCapitalPartners.co.uk. Risk Capital Partners. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  23. ^ Saunders, Andrew. "Tesco blows £50m on in-store Giraffe". Management Today. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  24. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL7LGtKBNW4&feature=youtu.be
  25. ^ Luke Johnson appointed as Chairman of Channel 4 | Ofcom
  26. ^ Johnson, Luke (2007). The Maverick. Harriman House. ISBN 1-905641-40-0. 
  27. ^ "Luke Johnson, leading entrepreneur, takes the helm at The Institute of Cancer Research". Institute of Cancer Research. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "Luke Johnson to be appointed the next Chair of the RSA", theRSA.org, 4 September 2008, accessed 29 July 2011.
  29. ^ "We welcome our new Chairman of Trustees". Action On Addiction. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  30. ^ "Startup Britain Appoints Former Pizza Express Boss as Chairman". Start Up Britain. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  31. ^ Johnson, Luke. "Financial Times". Donation of ideas is better than just cash. Pearson. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  32. ^ Hunter, Daniel. "Fresh Business Thinking". Centre for Entrepreneurs. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  33. ^ "The Flaw: Producer credits", The FlawMovie, accessed 29 July 2011.
  34. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL7LGtKBNW4&feature=youtu.be

External links[edit]

Video[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Vanni Treves
Chairman of Channel 4
January 2004 – January 2010
Succeeded by
Terence Burns