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Theo Paphitis (born 24 September 1959) is an entrepreneur of Greek Cypriot origin. He made his fortune in the retail sector, and is best known to the general public for his appearances on the BBC business programme Dragons' Den.

In the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, he was ranked 581st although his estimated worth had increased to £135 million since 2007. This figure is conservative when taking into account the £100 million he gained from the sale of La Senza. Paphitis saw his wealth rise further in April 2009 to an estimated £165 million.


Born in Limassolmarker, Cyprusmarker, Paphitis came to Englandmarker with his parents and brother, Marinos, when he was six years old. He went to attend the local comprehensive school in North Londonmarker where they failed to detect his dyslexia, but began his entrepreneurial activities by running his school tuckshop, at the age of 15.

Business career

Paphitis took a job as a tea boy and filing clerk at a City of Londonmarker insurance broker. Wanting more money, he discovered his passion for retailing and sales, working as a sales assistant for Watches of Switzerland in Bond Streetmarker.

Aged 21, he joined Legal & General selling commercial mortgages, which taught him to read other businesses' balance sheets:

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 (now chairman of Barnet FC). Paphitis gained massive market share for NAG by negotiating concessionary positions in Ryman stationery stores.

When Ryman went into receivership, Paphitis approached the accountants and bought the company. He turned it around by paying suppliers, and enthusing the management team and store managers, cementing his reputation for turning failing companies into highly successful and profitable businesses. His ventures now include Ryman, Contessa, and Partners. 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.

At the end of 2008 Paphitis was one of several interested parties in bidding for failed retail chain Woolworths. However he later pulled out.


As chairman, Paphitis took Millwall out of administration, saw their first ever official appearance at Millennium Stadiummarker, and saw the Lions win promotion to Division One as champions. He is perhaps best known for his work to reduce football hooliganism, and appointing Dennis Wise as Millwall manager, who guided the club to their first official appearance in the FA Cup Final in 2004. Paphitis left Millwall on 21 July, 2006 and was succeeded as Chairman by Peter de Savary.

Paphitis holds a large percentage of Isthmian League side Walton & Hersham.


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 in 2005 and has continued to appear in the show, which is now in its seventh series (2009).

Business philosophy

Paphitis attributes his success to his natural common sense, and his favourite motto is a famous business school motto: KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. His view on business is:

Personal life

Theo lives with his wife Debbie in Weybridge, Surreymarker, to whom he refers as Mrs. P on Dragons' Den. They have five children – 2 sons and 3 daughters – and 2 grandchildren.

Known to be something of a "petrol-head", his first car, like fellow "dragon" Peter Jones, was an Alfa Romeo Alfasud, and he presently owns a gun metal grey Maybach 62, Mercedes SL63 AMG and a Toyota Land Cruiser. His car collection have a series of personalised number plates, including T1HEO and RYM4N (on the Maybach). When interviewed on the BBC show Top Gear in July 2008 he set a time of 1:48.5 around the Top Gear Test Trackmarker in the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car segment. Jeremy Clarkson named Theo as "Theo Pamphlet" on the leaderboard.

Theo's brother, Marinos, is currently the Director for the South Eastern region of the Learning & Skills Council.

In an article for UK based newspaper the Guardian, journalist Kira Cochrane reported Paphitis making remarks that have been interpreted by some as disparaging women in the workforce.

He is also a supporter and member of the Liberal Democrat party.


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