Who is Simon Franks?
Businessman, philanthropist, political adviser – find out more about the man behind Redbus and LOVEFiLM with these seven facts…
Name: Simon Franks
Businesses: Franks co-founded film rental service LOVEFiLM and film distribution company Redbus.
Why you should know about him: Former city trader Franks started Redbus from his spare bedroom, which grew to become one of the largest film distributors in Europe, with turnover of $50m, before co-founding one of the biggest names in film rental LOVEFiLM in 2003.
Co-founder of two hugely successful businesses, Franks has been a prominent figure in UK enterprise since the 1990s. Find out more about him with these seven facts
1. He’s a 2004 Young Gun
Franks was awarded Young Gun status in 2004 as the founder of Redbus Film Distribution, by which time it was listing revenues upwards of $50m. Founded in his bedroom, the company produced and distributed a string of international hits including Bend It Like Beckham, Cabin Fever, Jeepers Creepers and Goodnight and Good Luck.
2. Redbus was the UK’s fastest growing company at one stage
Redbus was said to be the UK’s fastest growing company between 2000 and 2004, growing at an annual growth rate of more than 280%. In 2000, when he was just 28 years old, Franks sold half of Redbus to a German company Helkon Media AG for a reported $23m.
3. LOVEFiLM was built through a campaign of aggressive acquisition.
LOVEFiLM came about from the merger of no less than 10 different DVD rental companies. In 2006, Video Island, the DVD rental company launched by Redbus in 2003 and one of the biggest services of its kind in the UK with 200,000 subscribers, merged with LOVEFiLM to challenge US rivals.
By the time it was sold to Amazon in 2011 for £200m it had reached two million subscribers.
4. He’s passionate about philanthropy
The entrepreneur founded the Franks Family Foundation (FFF) in 2006, which mentors and partners with charitable organisations around the world to help address problems in some of its poorest regions.
Its remit spans everything from educational projects to medical outreach and scholarship programmes, as well as supporting artists and art institutions. Through his role as chairman of FFF, Franks has participated in a number of conferences on international development and the promotion of a more equal world.
5. And politics…
Franks is heavily involved in politics and, as in his charitable work, is particularly interested in issues surrounding international development, foreign policy and foreign aid. In 2005, he joined the Labour party and acted as an advisor on business, entrepreneurialism and innovation.
In the run up to the 2015 election, he was a vocal supporter of the party, keen to refute claims that the party was anti-business.
According to The Observer, Franks has taken an even larger step into the political arena: in April 2018, the newspaper claimed that the entrepreneur is behind a new centrist party that has been secretly under development for over a year by a network of entrepreneurs, philanthropists and donors who have become disenchanted with increasing polarisation and poor leadership in British politics.
Backed by a reported £50m in funding, Franks' company Project One Movement for the UK is said to be the vehicle for the new political party which will borrow ideas from the left and right. This includes a focus on wealth creation and entrepreneurship, as well as more money for the NHS and improved social mobility. Although it's expected that the movement will try to encourage MPs to defect to its ranks ahead of an official launch, Franks is the only name to be publically associated with the party at this time.
6. He’s a Startups Awards Judge
In 2015, Franks was amongst the prestigious list of judges for the 12th Startups Awards alongside the likes of Cath Kidston MBE, Dragons’ Den’s Touker Suleyman and Innocent Drinks co-founder Jon Wright.
7. He's now an investor
Franks now chairs the Redbus Group, which invests in fast-growth early stage businesses and funds, as well as acquiring companies that need restructuring. Its portfolio includes student loan comparison tool Credible, campus advertising firm Eighteen-24 and Perkbox.
You can get the lowdown on other influential entrepreneurs in this series, such as:
- Ann Summers’ Jacqueline Gold
- Lastminute.com co-founder, digital champion and peer Martha Lane Fox
- Tech City driver Rohan Silva
- TV founder Jamal Edwards
- Serial entrepreneur Sherry Coutu
- Lastminute.com and Made.com founder Brent Hoberman
- And Target Parking founder Emma Sinclair
- And Cath Kidston founder Cath Kidston