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Business Shapers: Luke Johnson

Posted on 7 November 2012

Luke Johnson is the Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm he founded in 2001. For six years until 2010 he served as Chairman of Channel 4 Television. Luke is Chairman/part owner of the restaurant business Giraffe, Chairman/owner of Patisserie Valerie and Chairman/part owner of Gail’s and was Chairman of PizzaExpress PLC in the 1990s.


Business Shapers: Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson

Chairman of Risk Capital Partners

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

It started at University while I was an undergraduate at Oxford studying and I was having parties with a friend who subsequently became my business partner for many years and we were threatened with being thrown out because our parties were too boisterous so we decided to approach a local nightclub and we took over the premises on a Monday evening and we then came up with the idea of charging on the door.  So our parties feed into a business.  And it was a seminal moment for me on the first night when at twenty to eight, twenty minutes before we were due to open, there was already a queue of customers there and I suddenly thought this is so much more exciting and it is so much more of the sort of thing I want to spend my career doing. 

The truth was then when we invested in Pizza Express it was already a great formula so the model didn’t need to be altered, what needed to happen was a proper capital structure, the end of a recession which obviously was nothing to do with us but happened to happen at that time so that was a great piece of luck. 

In business I think actually the greatest thrill one gets, for me anyhow, is opening new restaurants.  For example, we are opening very soon a new draft house which is a small chain of gastropubs I am involved with in Dulwich and I love that.  To see a battered old premises transformed into something buzzing and dynamic with lots of happy customers, that’s what you know gives me a kick and I am probably going to be involved in something like 45 new openings this year and that gives me as much satisfaction as anything to be honest. 

I think it’s about persistence, it’s about self-discipline, it’s about hard work, it’s about having a good team of people, it’s about having a sort of stable home life if you like, it’s about having enough cash to keep you going through the lean times and I suppose it’s also about an appreciation that actually relatively speaking, doing business in a country like Britain, we are actually quite fortunate.

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

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