Theo is a Cypriot entrepreneur, based in the United Kingdom, well known for turning failing companies into highly successful and profitable businesses. His ventures include a variety of business organisations: Ryman, Contessa, La Senza, Partners and Red Letter Days. He made the majority of his fortune in the retail sector, and is best known to the general public for his appearances on the BBC business programme Dragons’ Den and as former chairman of Millwall Football Club.
Theo Paphitis came to England when he was 6 and began his entrepreneurial activities, running his school tuck-shop, at the age of 15. He was inspired to get into business when swiveling on the leather chair in the office of his father’s air-conditioning firm.
Theo started his career at the age of 16 as a tea boy/filing clerk with Lloyds of London insurance brokers, then discovered his passion for retailing and sales, working as a sales assistant for Watches of Switzerland.
At the age of 20 he moved into finance and became involved in commercial mortgage sales before eventually deciding to go it alone setting up his own company at the age of 23.
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.
In the following years he purchased and turned around ailing companies like Movie Media Sports, Ryman the Stationer, Contessa and La Senza lingerie chains, and Partners the Stationer. He has turned these companies into successful, solid and profitable retail businesses.
As chairman, Theo took Millwall FC out of administration, saw their first ever official Wembley appearance, and won promotion to Division One as champions.
After appearing on series four of the BBC Back to the Floor series while chairman at Millwall FC, and selling his stake a year later, Paphitis was approached to become one of the “dragons” in the second series of the BBC Two entrepreneurship series Dragons’ Den.
He co-owns 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 March 2011 Paphitis set up a new lingerie chain, Boux Avenue.
Theo’s down-to-earth message on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to the retail industry, are delivered with wit and passion.