Luke Johnson is the Chairman of private equity house Risk Capital Partners LLP. He is Chairman and part-owner of Patisserie Holdings, Bread Ltd (the firm behind the Gail’s Artisan Bakery chain.) He is also Chairman and majority owner of Neilson Active Holidays and serves on the board of sporting goods company Zoggs and Brompton Bicycles. He is the largest shareholder and a director of Elegant Hotels Group plc, the largest hotel business in Barbados and most recently became the majority shareholder in Xstrahl, a medical devices specialist.
He is Chairman of The Brighton Pier Group PLC and stockbroker Arden Partners PLC. He is Chairman/Part-owner of casual-dining chain 3Sixty Restaurants, which owns Ego Restaurants and contract catering firm Genuine Dining. He is also Chairman and co-owner of Majestic Bingo and Small Batch Coffee.
He is Chairman of Fast Track, the UK’s leading networking events and research firm focusing on Britain’s top-performing private companies. He is also chairman and co-owner of Assembly Festival, the biggest venue operator at the Edinburgh fringe festival, as well as a director of two theatre production partnerships, Playful Productions and Fiery Dragons.
Luke was Chairman of Channel 4 Television Corporation from January 2004 to January 2010. In that time he appointed a new CEO, restructured the board and saw the organisation enjoy record ratings, revenues and surplus. He also served as Chairman of the trustees of the £150m Channel 4 staff pension plan.
In 1993 Luke took control of PizzaExpress with partners and subsequently became Chairman. He grew the business from 12 owned restaurants to over 150, and the share price from 40p to over 900p. He sold out in 1999 and started Signature Restaurants, which owned The Ivy, J.Sheekey and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo chain, selling the business in 2005. In 2000 he started the Strada restaurant concept from scratch and took the chain to 30 units, selling the business in 2006. The total proceeds from these two disposals were in excess of £90 million. He was a Director of fresh fish distributor Seafood Holdings, sold for £45m in 2010.
Luke founded Integrated Dental Holdings with partners in 1996 and grew it to become the largest UK chain of dental surgeries with over 500 dentists. This was sold in 2006 for over £100 million.
He was the principal owner of Mayfair Gaming, responsible for the chain of Riva bingo clubs, from 2004. This was sold in 2006 for an IRR of over 40%.
From 2011 to 2014 Luke was a non-executive director of Metro Bank plc. From 2004 to 2006 he was a Director of Dollar Financial Group Inc, a US NASDAQ traded corporation. He was co-founder/owner and Director of InterQuest Group plc, before stepping down in 2010. Luke was a non-executive Director of art publisher Phaidon Press from 2010 to 2012. He was also a major owner and director of APT Controls, the market leader in car park equipment.
In 2004 Luke became Chairman and part-owner of family restaurant chain Giraffe Restaurants, stepping down in 2013 when Giraffe was sold to Tesco for £50m.
From 2013 to 2016 Luke was part-owner and Chairman of Cruise.co.uk the UK’s largest online cruise holiday website, selling out to Bridgepoint Development Capital for £52m.
Chairman/part-owner of Draft House craft pub chain from 2011. It was successfully sold to Brewdog in 2018. In addition, Luke was also part-owner of Laines Pub Co which was successfully sold in 2018 to Vine Acquisitions.
He has been involved as a Director/owner of various quoted companies in retailing, pubs and bars, parcel delivery and maritime commerce, including Whittard of Chelsea, My Kinda Town, Clear Leisure, Nightfreight, Topps Tiles and American Port Services.
Luke is Chairman of a number of charities and interest groups. He is Chairman of The Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s leading cancer laboratories. He is also Chairman of StartUp Britain, the national campaign in support of entrepreneurship.
In October 2013 Luke co-founded and launched the Centre for Entrepreneurs, a non-profit think-tank aiming to address the “…under-representation of entrepreneurs in the public eye” and to “…promote entrepreneurship to government, media, the private sector (including big businesses) and the general public”.
Most recently, in 2016, Luke was appointed Chair of the Almeida Theatre in North London.
Luke is a Professor of Practice at King’s Business School. He holds honorary degrees from Heriot-Watt University, the University of Bath, the University of the West of England and the University of West London.
Luke writes a weekly column on business for The Sunday Times. He wrote a weekly essay for The Financial Times from 2007 to 2015 and wrote a weekly column on business matters for The Sunday Telegraph between 1999 and 2006, and is a former columnist for Management Today. The author of several books, his most recent work is “Start It Up: Why Running Your Own Business Is Easier Than You Think“, published by Penguin in autumn 2011.
Luke is a former Chairman of the Royal Society of Arts, completing his three-year term in October 2012. He is a former chairman of StageOne, a charity in support of new producers of quality commercial theatre. He is also a former Chairman of Career Colleges, an organisation planning 40 vocational colleges for 14-19-year-olds. He was a governor of The University of the Arts London between 2000 and 2006.
In 2011 he co-produced The Flaw, a documentary feature film detailing the events leading up to the financial crash of 2008.
Luke studied medicine at Oxford University, graduating in 1983. He is married with three children and lives in London.
In this must-read book, Luke Johnson compresses two decades of hard-won business experience to inspire – and guide – everyone about to set off for life as an entrepreneur.
Johnson, the man behind the growth of PizzaExpress, is one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs with an estimated personal fortune of £120 million. In Start It Up he reveals the realities of running your own business and tackles the crucial issues: finding the right idea, sourcing capital, and more.
Order a Copy
For eight years between 1998 and 2006, Luke Johnson wrote a regular column as ‘The Maverick’ in The Sunday Telegraph.
His short, pithy essays tackled subjects ranging from rich lists to bankrupt companies, from high finance to investment techniques, from philanthropy to trophy wives, bringing a practitioner’s eye to the commercial world and the people in it. The Maverick quickly developed a cult following among readers who wanted to understand the blunt truth about investment, entrepreneurs, business history, and corporate life.
This book brings together 84 of the best articles, with updates, in a single volume. What makes them unique is that Luke Johnson is not just a first-class writer, he is also one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. He made his name with Pizza Express, has run and owned businesses in many different sectors, and now takes stakes in fast-growing businesses through his company, Risk Capital Partners. He is also Chairman of Channel 4. The diversity of his experience enables him to write with insight and perspective about the very serious matter of making and losing money.
AS A LEADING FIGURE IN PRIVATE EQUITY AND THE MAN BEHIND SEVERAL INSTANTLY-RECOGNIZABLE HIGH STREET BRANDS, LUKE IS ONE OF THE FEW ENTREPRENEURS WHOSE SPEECHES RESONATE WITH ONE-MAN-BAND BUSINESSES AND SUNDAY TIMES READERS ALIKE.
As a former Chairman of Channel 4 and the Royal Society of Arts, there are few after-dinner speakers to equal Luke’s credibility and breadth of experience.
Luke has delivered talks in many formats, including after-dinner speeches, lunchtime salons, management off-sites, trade events, board briefings, motivational events and public seminars.
Luke’s speeches are both entertaining and provocative. He speaks passionately about the contribution of entrepreneurialism to the good of society, and the personal value of optimism, determination and self-reliance. Luke is equally comfortable talking to sector-specific audiences, particularly those relating to his own interests i.e. the media, the restaurant trade and private equity.
When time allows, Luke is pleased to waive his fee for charities and educational institutions hosting not-for-profit events.
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