Our keynote speaker Luke Johnson is a man whose CV runs to several pages.
He’s a restaurateur, businessman, author, columnist and chairman of a number of not-for-profits including The Institute of Cancer Research.
It all started when he was studying medicine at Oxford (yes, he’s a qualified doctor too). While he was there, he interviewed Richard Branson who inspired him and by the time he graduated, he was already running a number of businesses and clubs.
Today, Luke is worth an estimated £220million after founding or buying, building up and selling businesses that are household names. He began with Pizza Express (growing it from 12 to 150 restaurants), then launched Strada and, as part-owner, sold Giraffe to Tesco for £50m. He also founded Signature Restaurants, which includes The Ivy and Le Caprice.
He’s the chairman of Bread Ltd (the firm behind Gail’s Artisan Bakery chain) and chairman/part-owner of Feng Sushi, a London-based chain of Japanese restaurants specialising in home delivery.
It’s not all food and drink though. He is Chairman of Fast Track, the UK’s leading networking events and research firm focusing on Britain’s top-performing private companies. He is also director of two theatre production partnerships, owns Cruise.co.uk and Neilson Active Holidays and sits on the board of Zoggs and Brompton Bicycles.
From 2004-2010, he was chairman of Channel 4 Television Corporation and also fitted in a three year term as chairman of the Royal Society of Arts.
In recent years he’s become big in Brighton, with large stakes in The Laine Pub Company and coffee group Small Batch – now set to roll out beyond the city’s boundaries. He’s also the new owner of Brighton Pier.
Luke describes himself as an “unrepentant capitalist”. He believes in entrepreneurs and risk-takers, rather than big business or government. Not surprising for a man who has achieved so much, he says that “the greatest enemy is boredom and idleness”.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though – his takeover of mussels restaurant Belgo is one to forget and so is his purchase of Borders bookshops, which lost him £2m.
In his “spare time” he has written a number of business titles (his most recent work is “Start It Up: Why Running Your Own Business Is Easier Than You Think“) and pens a weekly column for The Sunday Times.
We said at the start that Luke’s CV is several pages long and we haven’t had space to include everything. Read more about our speaker here – or better still, come and listen to him speak at this year’s Brighton Summit.