Luke Johnson studied medicine at Oxford University graduating in 1983. He then worked as media analyst at stockbroker Grieveson Grant (subsequently Kleinwort Benson Securities).
Luke took control of PizzaExpress in 1993 and subsequently became Chairman. He grew the business from 12 owned restaurants to over 250, and the share price from 40p to over 900p.
He sold out in 1999 and started Signature Restaurants, which owned The Ivy and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo chain, selling the business in 2005. He started the Strada restaurant concept from scratch and took the chain to 30 units then sold in late 2005. The total proceeds from these two disposals were in excess of £90 million.
In the period 1993 to date he has been involved as director/owner of various quoted companies in retailing, pubs and bars, parcel delivery and maritime commerce, including Whittard of Chelsea, My Kinda Town, Nightfreight and American Port Services.
Luke founded Integrated Dental Holdings with partners in 1996 and grew it to the largest UK chain of dental surgeries with over 500 dentists. This was sold in 2006 for over £100 million.
He is Non-executive Director of Elderstreet VCT plc, and founder/owner and Director of InterQuest Group plc, a quoted recruitment business. From 2004 to 2006 he was Director of Dollar Financial Group Inc, a US NASDAQ traded corporation with $80m EBITDA.
Since 2000 Luke has run Risk Capital Partners Ltd., focusing on private equity deals.
He is principal owner of GRA, the UK’s largest greyhound track owner, since early 2005.
He was principal owner of Mayfair Gaming, the group of Riva bingo clubs, since 2004. This was sold in 2006 for IRR of over 40%.
He is also the owner/Chairman of private firms in directory publishing (Superbrands), restaurants – Giraffe and Patisserie Valerie – and between 2003-2006 advertising/design (Loewy Group). Loewy investment was successfully sold in late 2006. He is a major owner and Director of the market leader in car park equipment, APT Controls, since early 2007.
Luke became Chairman of Channel 4 Television Corporation in January 2004. Since then, he has appointed a new CEO, restructured the board and seen the organisation enjoy record ratings, revenues and surplus. He also serves as Chairman of trustees of the £150m Channel 4 staff pension plan.
In September 2007 Luke bought Borders UK/Books etc, one of the UK’s largest bookshop chains with revenues of over £200m.
Luke wrote a weekly column on business matters for The Sunday Telegraph for eight years until 2006. He now writes a weekly column on entrepreneurship for The Financial Times. He was also governor of The University of the Arts between 2000 and 2006.
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