Luke Johnson

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Full name: Luke Johnson

Area of interest: British business, Entrepreneurship

Journals/Organisation: Financial Times

Email: |

Personal website:







Education: Studied medicine at Oxford University, graduating 1983

Career: Began career at BMP Advertising Agency; analyst at Kleinwort Benson investment bank; organised acquisition of PizzaExpress, floating the company and then overseeing a 20-fold increase in its share price; sits on the board of many companies (info); from 2000 has run Risk Capital Partners Ltd., focusing on private equity deals; governor of The University of the Arts, 2000/2006. Wrote regular column 'The Maverick' in the Sunday Telegraph, 1998/2006

Current position/role: FT columnist

  • also writes/has written for:

Other roles/Main role: Chairman of Risk Capital Partners (former chairman of Channel 4, 2004/2010)

Other activities: Appointed Chairman of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 2009



Broadcast media:


Controversy/Criticism: *In defence of sycophantic wage slaves - Lucy Kellaway: Luke Johnson is wrong. Flattery is crucial to survival in the corporate world and beyond - 24th March



Other: Son of historian and journalist Paul Johnson

Books & Debate:

  • The maverick: Dispatches from an unrepentant capitalist OCLC14459603, 2007
The maverick - dispatches from an unrepentant capitalist Luke Johnson.jpg

Latest work: Start it up: Why running your own business is easier than you think OCLC751788987 , 2011


Current debate:


  • No regular column

Articles: 2016

Articles: 2015

Articles: 2014

Articles: 2013

Articles: 2012

Articles: 2011

Articles: 2010

Articles: 2009

  • Which stakeholder should get priority? - Business leaders should learn to create harmonious partnerships between staff, shareholders and customers - 23rd December
  • A parlour game for the highly motivated - Whether you can give a straight answer to this question says a lot about you. Luke Johnson is won over by a highly motivated parlour game - 16th December
  • Allure of annual to-do lists - Every December, Luke Johnson draws up a list of personal objectives, an eccentric mix of the impossibly ambitious and the trivial, as a motivational tool - 9th December
  • A call to arms for ex-soldiers in business - Former services personnel often make gifted business leaders and more should be done to help them - 2nd December
  • Benefits beyond the perils of partnerships - They are the oldest form of business structure and can often be complex and boisterous, but they have their advantages - 25th November
  • Ten easy ways to murder a business - Luke Johnson puts together a top 10 “not-to-do” list for entrepreneurs. Among them? Take on too much debt, get sick, never evolve and forget your customers - 18th November
  • Stress and risk – the secret of happiness - Most successful business people live contrary to the view espoused by many philosophers that contentment means stability and tranquillity - 11th November
  • Actors who create drama of business - Making sales, hiring new staff, generating a profit are all very well – but what really excites the boardroom is corporate intrigue - 4th November
  • The leader who fails will emerge stronger - While we are suspicious of someone who has suffered a serious setback, we also respect hard-won experience - 28th October
  • Politics is a dangerous game for business - Politics is a dangerous game for business leaders, as they are unlikely to find what they are looking for - 21st October
  • Accentuate the positive - There is no room for complacency, and no one said achievement is easy – but there are solutions to almost any problem - 14th October
  • Generation game redefines business - The conflict marking the Digital Age reminds Luke Johnson of the battles between the young and old in the 1960s over the Vietnam war - 7th October
  • The genuine nobility of manufacturing - Service and support sectors are all very well, but their output feels so much less tangible than a production business - 30th September
  • Leaders who use charm to reach the top - Humour and charm are a surprisingly powerful combination as a means of ascent in life. I have met a number of entrepreneurs who have built fortunes on the back of their wit and general popularity – and not much else - 23rd September
  • How to optimise your board - They are the central device for supervision of companies. But the make-up of boards and how they meet are crucial to coming up with the right answers - 16th September
  • The ties that bind leaders of industry - It seems every profession has a small circle of characters who basically commands things. They compete ferociously for power, fame, money, market share, staff, property, awards. Could one characterise these gangs as mafia-like? - 9th September
  • Inventors are our greatest heroes - It is a great shame that so much innovation now seems to stem from nameless teams inside large corporations. The whole idea of technological progress had so much more personality in the era of giants like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison - 2nd September
  • All part of a good education - Entrepreneur columnist Luke Johnson recalls the insights he gained during early-life stints as a postman, lathe turner and disco king - 26th August
  • Matching up lenders with borrowers - There are huge disconnects in lending that make no sense and it will require corporate financiers with imagination to solve the conundrum - 19th August
  • Time to go on the offensive - Now is the time to consider recharging the entrepreneurial batteries, and take the chance to consolidate – if you have the confidence, the cash and the people - 12th August
  • Britain needs a national will to reform - We need a common sense of purpose and a realisation that our system is unravelling - 5th August
  • Straight path to a superior business - Executing the best principles within outstanding companies consistently and over long periods is very hard - 29th July
  • Leaks have got out of hand - Some people just cannot keep secrets: they get a kick from revealing something hush-hush – even if it damages the business they serve - 22nd July
  • Forget the customer at your peril - Last week I sat, increasingly miserable, in an establishment I own, as a catalogue of incompetence saw a series of customers treated poorly - 16th July
  • Joys and perils of a partnership - Great teams can comprise smooth negotiator and hard nut or a creative brain matched with a commercial mind - 8th July
  • Sex snare for top executives - Male leaders tempt fate by misbehaving with women. Perhaps they believe it enables them to manage better - 1st July
  • A quiet word beats sending e-mail - E-mail can be a terrible distraction but is hard to beat as a transmitter of documents and data – a marvellous economical tool - 24th June
  • Faustian pact of a guarantee - The single most important thing to remember is never, ever to give any lender a personal guarantee - 17th June
  • Numbers guys you can count on - A proper company cannot function without a decent finance director at the helm, supervising, informing and warning - 10th June
  • Watch out for an epidemic of petty fraud - I suspect industry is enduring a spate of crime right now, as incomes fall with the economy and integrity becomes a casualty of the recession - 3rd June
  • Rough diamonds dazzle as entrepreneurs - Entrepreneurs are unlikely to be educational high-flyers but instead make their own way in the world of commerce from a fairly young age - 3rd June
  • Rough diamonds dazzle as entrepreneurs - Entrepreneurs are unlikely to be educational high-flyers but instead make their own way in the world of commerce from a fairly young age - 27th May
  • Time of trial brings out our litigious side - It seems that whenever the economy gets difficult, people start falling out with each other, and often the row ends up with a vicious battle in court - 20th May
  • Politicians demonise business at their peril - The government has parked its tanks on capitalism’s lawn, and that spells trouble for those who invest, add value and create jobs - 13th May
  • Poor children of the rich and successful - Many entrepreneurs, born with a hunger for recognition and material advancement, end up spoiling their beloved daughters and sons - 6th May
  • Stop making excuses and get started - Most business projects can be launched on a budget if your life’s dream depends on it, and even now there is equity backing out there - 29th April
  • Independents will always have their day - There is a passion and engagement within an independent enterprise that large corporates, with their managerialism and uniformity, can only envy - 22nd April
  • A sense of dread ails the opinion-makers - The downsizing is having a disproportionate effect on the morale of the educated classes, and therefore our outlook on the world - 15th April
  • Invigorating slide from star to survivor - Traditionally the top talent in every sector always did well. But that model is breaking down - 8th April
  • Rekindle those risk-taking animal spirits - The spontaneous urge to action that stimulates any recovery will be triggered if entrepreneurs are unshackled by the lawmakers - 1st April
  • When a packed diary betrays a busy fool - If you have no space to see someone at short notice about something that matters, you have allowed the mundane to overwhelm you - 25th March
  • How to get buyers and sellers talking - The mergers and acquisitions field needs a boost, as sellers show reluctance to lower price expectations and buyers have little ammunition - 18th March
  • The consumer’s new mantra is value - With everyone looking for a bargain, unless you are the dominant low-cost operator, it can mean a profitless existence for many organisations - 11th March
  • The hot money is in live performance - Whether music, comedy, literature or theatre, stage shows seem to be in decent health, considering the overall state of discretionary spending - 4th March
  • A riposte to investors’ rush to gold - Intelligent societies should direct their savings towards things that can grow and transform lives – in other words, private sector companies - 25th February
  • Wage restraint is just the job or Britain will pay the price - Of all the jobs I do, sitting on remuneration committees is one of the least satisfactory. No matter what you decide, it seems everyone ends up feeling cheated - 22nd February
  • Silver start-ups could come of age - Society must do much more to protect the greying generation with its entrepreneurial potential - its olderpreneurs - 18th February
  • Hard talk behind the boardroom door - Meetings used to be about exciting things such as capital expenditure plans, but now job losses, debtor days and retention of title dominate - 11th February
  • A tragedy for champions of free markets - Our banks are on the rocks because a true sense of ownership, obligation, responsibility and prudence went missing in recent years - 4th February
  • Why I fear the west’s luck has run out - Expect years of weak growth, high unemployment, declining property prices, higher taxes, crumbling currencies and falling living standards - 28th January
  • We need tax breaks for capitalists - Those who are brave enough to invest immediately and save jobs should be permitted to claim 100 per cent income and capital gains relief - 21st January
  • Graft, not genes, brings success - The debate about what makes us who we are has carried on since Charles Darwin put forward his theory of evolution in 1859 - 14th January

Articles: 2008

  • Grim Reaper stalks corporate corridors - Suicide often reveals its gruesome presence in the aftermath of financial scandal - 31st December 2008
  • Private equity must prove its value - Unless things are done differently, the backers will disappear, the money will dry up and credibility for the profession will be destroyed - 24th December 2008
  • The toughest year I have ever had to call - Judging next year’s financial outcome for the companies I am involved in is the hardest such task I have known in a quarter of a century in commerce - 17th December 2008
  • Optimism struck off the restaurant menu - The public mood has changed in the downturn: a meal out represents discretionary spending – items such as mortgage payments do not - 10th December 2008
  • The tough medicine of bankruptcy - There are two possible directions to take if your business is bust: you can get an administrator, or you can ask the government to bail you out - 3rd December 2008
  • Advice to the brave young entrepreneur - Many options remain in spite of an economic slump that means there is minimal funding for new businesses just as there are few plum jobs - 26th November 2008
  • Wanted: a return to the thrill of small ads - I have a sentimental attachment to the role of luck and industry in ferreting out obscure opportunities among old-fashioned classifieds - 19th November 2008
  • Bad publicity today is old news tomorrow - The truth about unfavourable coverage is that there is a lot of noise out there in the media jungle, and stories soon get forgotten - 12th November 2008
  • Bosses need courage to survive this turmoil - It isn’t easy being a corporate cheerleader when the economy is having a heart attack yet there is no choice but to soldier on - 4th November 2008
  • Why thugs must not be allowed to prevail - If corporate cowardice spreads, boardrooms will become a weak underbelly, inspiring every lunatic sect simply to aim at the executive suite - 28th October 2008
  • Learn to tame the beast, ambition - Who can give up the limelight? I suspect that all entrepreneurs who get involved in show business eventually get seduced by the bright lights - 22nd October 2008
  • Why public ownership is a failed model - On stock markets the mad gyrations of a share price during a few days can determine the destiny of an institution that has been going for 200 years - 15th October 2008
  • Jobs killed by well-meant rules on work - Hiring and firing is a quagmire, and the list of employment red tape introduced in the past 10 years from Westminster is mind-blowing - 8th October 2008
  • How to dodge the downside of democracy - Private sector organisations are better at innovation because they have a boss and motivated owners, who choose a direction and take risks - 9th September 2008
  • Artful practitioners of a confidence trick - Contemporary art is mostly a folly, dreamt up by wily promoters to spoof those who have limited taste and too much cash. The bubble will burst - 2nd September 2008
  • A car crash waiting to happen - The 2008 slowdown is a double whammy for car dealers, who face a cyclical economic downturn and a savage structural upheaval = 26th August 2008
  • The value of keeping investments close by - Bold British investors may be right to flee the country and seek opportunities abroad, but I shall continue to stick to what I know and can see - 19th August 2008
  • Myth of the business superstar - I am much more impressed by the performance of sound companies where the founder steps back but the operation continues to thrive - 12th August 2008
  • All of the effort with none of the impact - The majority of entrepreneurs work in mundane industries for mediocre returns. Few see exponential returns and it is the big winners who make all the money - 5th August 2008
  • Lonely owner in need of a listening ear - The less structured mentoring arrangements are the better they work. What ultimately matters is that each side gets something out of it - 29th July 2008
  • Merchants of death display mixed virtues - Close to my office in London is a blue plaque attached to a converted warehouse, which says that this was the first arms factory of Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the single-barrelled machine gun - 22nd July 2008
  • Rites of passage for young entrepreneurs - They say the X and Y generations are the most entrepreneurial in history. But neither of them has been in business during a recession. I wonder if the vertiginous descent of the British economy is beginning to make some feel a touch nauseous... - 15th July 2008
  • Private sector needs some public spirit - I was delighted to see the unspeakable Ken Livingstone defeated in the London mayoral elections. He debased the office he occupied, and sent a toxic message to wealth creators - 8th July 2008
  • Bank leaders are a disgrace to capitalism - If you want to get a British entrepreneur worked up, one topic is bound to raise their temperature to boiling point: the behaviour of the clearing banks - 1st July 2008
  • A child will make a new man of you - The life of a self-made man is not always pleasant. Driving hard bargains, dealing with litigation, juggling creditors, making staff redundant, fighting for customers – these are all part of the craft of running your own show - 24th June 2008
  • Ideas for challenging times - What tools does a fledgling business have to cope with challenging times? - 17th June 2008
  • Tools for every founder’s kitbag - One of the great pleasures in life is the matter of gadgets. Every profession has its preferred toolkit and entrepreneurs are absolutely no exception - 10th June 2008
  • Scandal that threatens to bankrupt us - Here is a true horror story: the black hole in the UK’s public sector pensions. This colossal hidden deficit will starve British industry of investment and impoverish the wealth-creating portion of the economy for decades to come - 3rd June 2008
  • Gambles in a risqué business - Certain industries seem to attract more than their fair share of entrepreneurs – lingerie is one of those - 27th May 2008
  • What’s so terrible about making money? - One thing that has always baffled me is why certain people hate capitalism so much. They really are missing something - 20th May 2008
  • Why prisons could become business schools - Watching a recent documentary called Cocaine Cowboys about the growth of the drug trade in Miami in the 1980s, I was reminded that many forms of crime are simply uninhibited capitalism – but on an illegal basis - 6th May 2008
  • Go it alone with style, caution and thrift - There are quite a few advisers out there helping start-up companies - banks, accountants, small business agencies. Much of what they say is sensible. But few of these mentors have actually done it themselves - 30th April 2008
  • Courage, money and essential brass bells - I am a compulsive buyer and reader of business periodicals. As the son of a one-time magazine editor, perhaps it was inevitable. I get news, inspiration, ideas and contacts from them - 22nd April 2008
  • Look further afield to fund a good idea - The most common excuse I hear from those who want to start a business – but haven’t had the courage – is that they can’t raise the money - 15th April 2008
  • Optimists always have the last laugh - If you want to get depressed every morning, tune in to Today on BBC Radio 4. There you will hear an unremittingly grim view of the world – a diet of political wickedness, terrorism, global warming, looming recession and other catastrophes - 8th April 2008
  • Private lives that cause public disasters - One of the more extraordinary official statements I’ve read recently was published on the suspected suicide of Michael Todd, the former Manchester police chief - 1st April 2008
  • The incalculable appeal of good service - I recently spoke at an event hosted by Walpole, the association for makers of British luxury goods. And in conversation with the senior executives we all agreed – it is not so much the products you sell that guarantee success but the service you provide to customers - 25th March 2008
  • What’s wrong with the right entrepreneurs - I enjoy what I do partly because I like working with entrepreneurs. They tend to be inspirational, energetic individuals, fizzing with ideas and optimism. But like most of us, they have their flaws. If you want to succeed in backing them, it pays to look out for the drawbacks and come up with solutions to compensate - 18th March 2008
  • Audit waffle that smothers small business - Last week I sat in an audit committee meeting of a smallish listed company. I was intrigued to hear both the finance director and audit partner declare that the accountancy profession had “lost the plot”. Or rather, the mandarins who decide on accounting standards had - 11th March 2008
  • Seek hidden value, not surface glitter - Not long ago I was visited by a former management consultant who had gone into the health food industry. He had no experience of running a company, but that didn’t put him off. He had raised significant funding for his start-up concept and had rolled out a number of branches - 4th March 2008
  • There will be blood in the boardroom - I recently read a wonderful phrase by Joseph Conrad: “To be a great autocrat you must be a great barbarian.” It sums up the theme of the brilliant film There Will Be Blood - 26th February 2008
  • Self-starters in the Strangers’ Gallery - Politics exerts an overwhelming fascination for many entrepreneurs. Having conquered one walk of life and with little need of money but still plenty of ambition, they see the political arena as a fresh challenge. Sadly, most retire hurt from the fray before the battle is won... - 19th February 2008
  • Founders in search of some face time - The life of an entrepreneur can be lonely, so there is much to be said for gatherings where business owners can share their war stories or hear new ideas - 12th February 2008
  • Buy and build, but keep the entrepreneur - There are two ways to build a large company: either organically, one step at a time – which is harder work, but probably more enduring; or by merging a series of companies, which gets you there much more quickly - 5th February 2008
  • The truth about the HR department - Human resources is a management term that should strike fear into the heart of every self-respecting entrepreneur - 30th January 2008
  • Self-made sorts kick back and relax - When entrepreneurs are not running their empires and amassing wealth, what do they do with their time? Children? Travel? Television? Or the obvious business sport: golf? Surely they must indulge in extraordinary leisure pursuits, in keeping with their unusual careers? - 23rd January 2008
  • A nation of shopkeepers and world beaters - How well suited are British culture and our national character to the world of enterprise? We may not have coined the word “entrepreneur”, but Richard Arkwright did help launch the industrial revolution here in 1769 with his spinning jenny, and we pioneered the concept of the joint stock company, which paved the way for modern capitalism - 15th January 2008
  • Novel inspiration for would-be entrepreneurs - We all need inspiration in life, and never more so than when starting or buying a business. So I believe that heroic examples of entrepreneurs in fiction can serve an important purpose beyond their literary merit – 8th January 2008
  • Hard times reveal the true opportunists - It is said that during car crashes there is a moment of clarity before the collision – before the noise and havoc and pain – when everything becomes clear and stark - 1st January 2008

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