Sunday, 11 November 2007

The owner of over 70 bookshops - Mr Luke Johnson

Mr Johnson does not conform to the public’s notion of the roles he fills. He is 45, with a youthful, ageing rock star haircut. His father is Paul Johnson, the historian and polemicist. He isn’t at all plumy. His accent is ordinary bloke rather than posh public school – the result, presumably, of his parents insisting he went to a state grammar school.

He has a rumpled, mischievous air. Intelligent and quick, he’s someone who revels in challenging convention rather than going with the flow. He is rich, well over £100 million, married to Liza, a pharmacist, with two children. They have a house in Little Venice and other homes in Paris and New York. What is amazing from Mr Johnson is how he has done it. He studied medicine at Oxford, and to then land one of the best jobs in broadcasting with a medicine degree is unbelievable.

“I’ve been in business for over 20 years and I’ve a good team of partners working with me who are clever young men” Mr Johnsons says. “But there has been more to it. I look for an opportunity where I can add value and make a difference. Ok, I am a bargain hunter, I’m always looking for things that are cheap and are under-exploited.”

Patisserie Valerie is a good example of this. It is a good name with a wonderful proposition. It wasn’t being managed anywhere near its potential, so Mr Johnson opened a new one in Marble Arch and another in Queensway (both in London). They sell homemade, good quality pastries, good coffee and ice cream. That sort of authenticity is very rare and it’s that point of differentiation that attracted Mr Luke Johnson to Patisserie Valerie.

Together with his partners in his private-equity firm Risk Capital, he owns East, the fashion chain, Giraffe restaurants, Patisserie Valerie, the cakes and coffee shops, and GRA dog track. Plus in the past, Whittard of Chelsea, Punch Taverns, Belgo, Strada and Signature Restaurants, owner of The Ivy et al, have all passed through his hands. Lately he bought Borders books and is now also the owner of a bookshop chain with over 70 shops to his collection.

Please visit the entrepreneur again soon for some more updates on our businessman of the month, Mr Luke Johnson.

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