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10 Famous UK Business Leaders

Updated on July 14, 2011

Leadership in business can often be very inspiring, particularly when an individual has accomplished great feats from humble, paltry beginnings. In the UK, there are a number of business leaders and entrepreneurs who have created empires of businesses from either nothing or very little.

As part of our Leaders series, which includes our lists of Famous Welsh Leaders and Great Female Leaders through history, we have compiled a list of what we consider to be the Top 10 business leaders in the UK:

Jack Cohen – 1898-1979

Jack Cohen's beginnings couldn't be more humble. A market stall holder in Hackney, London, he soon became the owner of a number of stalls, a wholesale business and then went on to create the Tesco brand. The rest is history.

Anita Roddick – 1942-2007

Dame Anita Roddick was best known as the founder of cosmetics company The Body Shop. Founded with one shop in Brighton in 1976, with just 15 products for sale, the company now has 2,400 stores in 61 countries and offers over 300 products.

Alan Sugar – b. 1947

Famous nowadays due to BBC TV show The Apprentice as well as his political dealings, Lord Sugar founded Amstrad in 1968. The electronics - and eventually home computers - company had a very successful 1980s, achieving a stock market value of £1.2 billion at its peak.

James Dyson – b. 1947

Sir James Dyson is an industrial designer, inventor and founder of Dyson, the bagless vacuum cleaner company. After many years of prototypes, the Dyson started life as the 'G-Force' and was marketed in Japan, until it eventually hit the UK market and rivalled the likes of Hoover. Beyond the vacuum cleaner, Dyson launched the Dyson Airblade, an alternative design to the traditional public bathroom hand dryer.

Richard Branson – b. 1950

Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson started in business at age 16. In 1970, the Virgin Group was born with Virgin Records, which later grew to include Virgin Megastores, Virgin Interactive, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Trains.

Philip Green – b. 1952

Sir Philip Green's business portfolio - past and present - is impressive, including BHS (British Home Stores) and The Arcadia Group, which owns the likes of Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Topshop/Topman. He is also known for trying to buy M&S (Marks and Spencer) on numerous occasions.

Tim Martin – b. 1955

Irish-born and schooled in Northern Ireland and New Zealand, Tim Martin is the founder and chairman of J D Wetherspoon, a successful chain of UK pubs. Opening with just one pub in 1979, the company now owns around 800 pubs throughout the country.

Jacqueline Gold – b. 1960

Jacqueline Gold is the CEO of Ann Summers and Knickerbox. She revolutionised the lingerie and sex shop industry, bringing the stores onto the high-street from their private, sleazy, backstreet origins. Ann Summers - which had four stores when acquired by her father - now operate 140+ stores UK-wide.

Peter Jones – b. 1966

Famous for his appearance as one of the five 'Dragons' on BBC TV show Dragons' Den, Peter Jones' beginnings include a tennis academy, a computer business and a cocktail bar, before Phones International Group became one of the fastest-growing businesses in Europe.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou – b. 1967

Athens-born businessman Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou founded EasyJet in 1995, a British airline with about 200 aircraft and operating across 30 countries. In 1998, he founded EasyGroup, which encompasses other travel-related businesses.

Notable mentions:

Mohamed Al-Fayed – b. 1933, Egyptian-born billionaire and former owner of Harrods, the high-end department store in London.

Duncan Bannatyne – b. 1949, founder of Bannatyne's, a UK chain of health clubs, as well as a fellow 'Dragon' alongside Peter Jones.

Simon Cowell – b. 1959, music industry entrepreneur and television producer, with hit TV shows including The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.

This article was compiled and brought to you by t2 Management Training, who offer management training to the managers and leaders of some of the UK's biggest companies.


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