Paphitis in April 2007
24 September 1959
|Occupation||Retail magnate, entrepreneur|
|Net worth||GB£301 million (Sunday Times Rich List, 2019)|
Theodoros "Theo" Paphitis (Greek: Θεόδωρος Παφίτης; born 24 September 1959) is a British Greek-Cypriot retail magnate and entrepreneur. He is best known for his appearances on the BBC business programme Dragons' Den and as former chairman of Millwall Football Club.
Paphitis has made the majority of his fortune in the retail sector. In 2006, he sold his equity stake in the lingerie brand La Senza for a reported £100 million. He is the owner of stationery chain Ryman, the homewares specialist Robert Dyas and lingerie retailer Boux Avenue.
In May 2018, Solent University in Southampton named Paphitis as their new Chancellor. Paphitis was inaugurated as the university's Chancellor on 11 October 2018. He will serve a minimum of three years. Paphitis succeeded Lord West of Spithead.
Paphitis was born on 24 September 1959 in Limassol. He is the second of three brothers, with elder brother Marinos and younger brother George. They also share two half-brothers. Paphitis first lived in Old Trafford in Greater Manchester when his family arrived in the UK from Cyprus. His father then bought a terraced house in Gorton, Manchester where he lived for three years, attending Peacock Street junior school in the area. Paphitis moved to London with his parents and Marinos when he was nine years old. He attended Ambler Primary School in Islington and Woodberry Down Comprehensive School in Manor House, where he battled with dyslexia, but began his entrepreneurial activities by running the school's tuck shop at the age of 15.
Paphitis took a job as a tea boy and filing clerk at a City of London insurance broker. Wanting more money, he discovered his passion for retailing and sales when at 18 he worked as a sales assistant for Watches of Switzerland in Bond Street.
Aged 23, he set up a property finance company with close friend and business associate Mark Moran, and kept going when the friend left in partnership with Hanover Druce, making his first money on the rise of the 1980s commercial property markets. Spotting the rise in mobile telephones, he bought into NAG Telecom, becoming chairman alongside fellow director Tony Kleanthous. Paphitis gained a large market share for NAG by negotiating concessionary positions in Ryman stationery stores.
When Ryman went bankrupt, Paphitis approached the administrators and bought the company. He turned it around by improving relations with suppliers, and enthusing the management team, cementing his reputation for turning failing companies into highly successful and profitable businesses. His ventures now include Ryman, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue. He sold Red Letter Days with fellow Dragons' Den businessman Peter Jones. In 2006, he sold his equity stake in the UK and EU segment of the global lingerie brand, La Senza, for a reported £100m.
In October 2016, Paphitis acquired London Graphic Centre, a specialist arts and stationery retailer based in London's Covent Garden.
As chairman from 1997, Paphitis took Millwall out of administration and on to the 2004 FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. He is perhaps best known for his work to reduce football hooliganism, and appointing as Millwall manager Dennis Wise, and together they guided the club to their first official appearance in the final of the FA Cup and into European football. After almost eight years at the helm of Millwall, Paphitis stepped down from his role as chairman in 2005.
Paphitis is a director and part-owner of Isthmian League side Walton & Hersham. Paphitis' other companies became sponsors of the League's cup competitions with Robert Dyas sponsoring cup tournaments. Boux Avenue became title sponsor of the Boux Avenue Women's Cup.
After appearing on series four of the BBC Back to the Floor series while chairman at Millwall FC, Paphitis was approached to become one of the "dragons" in the second series of the BBC Two entrepreneurship series Dragons' Den in 2005 and left the programme after the 2012 season. Paphitis was known as a straight-talking but approachable and sincere 'dragon' who made many investments on the show, both alone and jointly with other dragon investors. In February 2013, he announced that he would be leaving the show.
In 2010, Paphitis had a three-part television series on BBC Two called Theo's Adventure Capitalists. The series followed British businesses looking to enter new markets in Brazil, India and Vietnam. The series was supported by the Open University.
In 2011, Paphitis presented the seven-part BBC Two series called Britain's Next Big Thing. The series examined the stories of artists, scientists, manufacturers and brand owners looking to sell their products and services to UK retailers including Boots and Liberty.
After time away from television to concentrate on business, Paphitis returned with appearances on BBC's Question Time and ITV's The Agenda. In March 2014, he appeared in Famous, Rich and Hungry, a two-part BBC documentary series which aimed to promote awareness of British people living in poverty, and raise money for Sport Relief.
Paphitis attributes his success to his natural common sense, and his favourite motto is a famous business school motto: "KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid". He has said, "There are three reasons to be in business. To make money, to have fun, and to make money."
Paphitis is a keen fan of cars. His car collection has a series of personalised number plates, including RYM4N on his Maybach. On 13 June 2017, the burglar who stole Paphitis' Land Rover received a jail sentence of two and a half years.
Paphitis has been criticised for some of his views on women. In 2008, he was quoted by Kira Cochrane of The Guardian newspaper as saying that although women may refuse to take maternity leave, "their brains turn to mush" after the pregnancy and "they take three months off".
Paphitis voted for Brexit in 2016, describing the EU as a "failed experiment". However, whilst appearing as a panelist on Question Time in October 2019, Paphitis said that he had changed his mind and supported a second referendum on Brexit, whilst still being a supporter of leaving the European Union.
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- Cochrane, Kira (1 July 2008). "Now, the Blacklash". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- "Theo Paphitis: I'm voting for a Brexit as EU is 'failed experiment'". retail-week.com. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- BBC Question Time [@bbcquestiontime] (10 October 2019). "'Like in business when you realise things have changed, you change your plan.' @TheoPaphitis says he has changed his mind since voting Leave and wants another 'clear referendum' on Brexit. #bbcqt" (Tweet) – via Twitter.