Dragons’ Den: Theo Paphitis

The retail magnate and former Millwall chairman made his millions from lingerie, homeware and stationery. As a dragon, he made 45 investments...

Dragon from: Series 2 – Series 10, 2005 to 2012
Number of investments made: 45
Largest sum invested: £250,000 (offered but the deal didn’t go through)
Most successful investment on the show: Magic Whiteboard

Who is Theo Paphitis?

Often likened to Touker Suleyman due to his Cypriot heritage and background in retail ventures, multi-million entrepreneur and investor Theo Paphitis has made his fortune in the lingerie, stationery and home and garden sectors – while also dabbling in football.

An early investor in La Senza – later selling his stake for a reported £100m – Paphitis owns five year-old national lingerie retailer Boux Avenue, stationery chain Ryman, and hardware retailer Robert Dyas; the latter bought for an undisclosed amount back in 2012.

The retail tycoon also co-owns gift experience business Red Letter Days with dragon Peter Jones, after the pair bought the venture out of administration from ex-dragon Rachel Elnaugh.

Outside of business, Paphitis is a big football fan. He was chairman of Millwall FC from 1997 to 2005 and is director and part-owner of Isthmian League side Walton & Hersham.

Paphitis as a Dragon

Paphitis was an active investor in the Den. His investment portfolio ranges from the more traditional e-commerce businesses such as children’s gift site The Present Club to quirky product businesses including portable toilet start-up BogInaBag and high-heeled welly boots WedgeWelly.

As a Dragon, Paphitis made show history when he offered to invest £250,000 – the biggest sum ever invested in a business on the Den.

The business in question was Zapper; the trading website founded by Young Gun Ben Hardyment, and Paphitis offered £250,000 in exchange for 30% equity. However, according to Tiger Mobile, the deal failed to go through after the show.

Given his background in stationery, it’s unsurprising that Paphitis’ most successful investment in the Den was portable whiteboard business Magic Whiteboard. He and Deborah Meaden both invested £50,000 in exchange for 20% equity in the company back in 2008 and they would go on to get an eight times return on their investment.

In September 2014, Magic Whiteboard founders Neil and Laura Westwood bought back their shares from Meaden and Paphitis, giving the investors an £800,000 return on their £100,000 investment. Read more about Magic Whiteboard’s success story here.

Life after the Den

In 2012, Paphitis decided to exit the show in order to focus on Boux Avenue, which he was expanding in the UK and internationally at the time. Paphitis has been an advocate of the show and said that he had a “wonderful experience as a Dragon”.

In the years since, Paphitis has appeared on other TV shows including 2014 BBC documentary series Famous, Rich and Hungry where he sought to promote awareness of British people living in poverty in order to raise money for Sport Relief.

Paphitis has also continued to back small businesses with his national initiative Small Business Sunday (SBS). A Twitter-based campaign, each week Paphitis rewards the best tweets from six small businesses by retweeting them on his account. In April 2016, he extended SBS by creating an online marketplace Shop SBS whereby SBS winners are able to sell their products on one retail website.

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