Theo Paphitis came to Britain from Limassol, Cyprus in 1966, aged six, and was running the tuck shop at his north London school by the time he was 15.
In 1976 he left school to work for Lloyds of London as the 'Tea Stirrer's Assistant'. However, it was during his time as a shop assistant at Watches of Switzerland that he found his flair for retail. Theo returned to the insurance industry in sales at 20, where he discovered his natural ability of pointing out the obvious and applying common sense (which is not common at all). In no time he was helping businesses in difficulty and this soon became a full time role. By the time he had reached 23 he set up his first business, Surrey & Kent Associates, a property finance broker.
Theo has a natural gift for turning losers into winners. In 1990 he bought Movie Media Sports, a media agency, from the receiver. In 1995 he bought the Ryman stationery chain from the receivers for £5m, and in 1997 he bought Millwall Football Club from Administration in a £10m deal. 1999 saw him acquire a 60% stake in La Senza, the lingerie business, for just £1 and just a few years later made him a £6 million profit.
In 2001 he bought Partners, a chain of 120 (now 88) stationery stores, as usual, from the receiver. In 2002-03, Xunely and Chancerealm, his main holding companies, made a total profit of £15.2m, valuing his stake in both at £101m.
In 2005 Theo Paphitis replaced Simon Woodroffe in the second series of the popular BBC2 business reality show Dragon's Den. A show in which would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of 'Dragons' in the hope they will invest in their venture in return for an equity share of the business.
His latest ventures include Red Letter Days, the gift experiences firm he salvaged out of administration with fellow 'Dragon' Peter Jones.