Spring Dinner: March 14th – Stationers’ Hall, London
On a chilly March evening, the magnificent surroundings of the Stationers’ Hall provided a warm welcome for the Old Friends’ Spring Dinner. The hire of the Hall was sponsored by Old Friend Mike James and the evening was sponsored by VOW and Banner. The Guest of Honour was Theo Paphitis, the owner and Chairman of a retail group comprising Ryman, Boux Avenue and Robert Dyas..
Theo joined the President, David Langdown and his wife Jayne to greet more than 100 Old Friends and their guests and welcome them to the drinks reception, held in the Court Room. James Hasler, an excellent replacement for our regular toastmaster, called diners into the main hall for dinner. The hall truly is a wonderful venue, and dressed as it was, with candlelight and the stained glass windows lit, guests could not fail to be impressed.
The meal was first class, with a salmon starter, duck main course and apple tarte tatin dessert. Compliments were also paid to the chef for the vegetarian and pescatarian alternatives, which were equally delicious. The wine too went down very well, extra supplies being brought in on a couple of occasions!
The President was pleased to welcome the guests, and also to mention a couple of Old Friends who have been through very difficult circumstances recently. Hon Treasurer John Logan has been out of circulation since his son George was stabbed in October 2017. The President was delighted to welcome John back, and to pass on the good news that after dozens of major operations, George is finally out of danger and on the road to recovery. The assailant has pleaded guilty to the attack and faces a lengthy jail sentence. John passed on his thanks to the many Old Friends who had phoned, texted, emailed, written and visited over the past four months. Their support had meant a huge amount.
The President also welcomed David Nelsey, who has sadly lost his wife and fellow Old Friend, Catherine, to cancer. Past President Kate Banks was also attending her first event since the sad and untimely passing of her daughter, Vicky. Both David and Kate should never forget that in dark times, they have many Old Friends to offer support.
The President thanked the sponsors and presented a gift to OF Mike James who is retiring from the committee at the AGM. Mike has been a great supporter of the Society since joining in 1992 and was President in the centenary year.
And so to the Guest of Honour. The name of Ryman is represented in both the Old Friends, where founder, Henry Ryman was president in 1947, and in the Stationers Company, where his son, Desmond was Master. So it was fitting that current owner and Chairman of Ryman, Theo Paphitis was our guest.
Rather than making a speech Theo chose to be interviewed by the President, who quizzed him on his childhood, education, early career and development into entrepreneurialism. Theo told of his journey from being the world’s worst filing clerk (he’s dyslexic) to watch salesman, commercial mortgage broker and into self employment. He told of his acquisition of Ryman, and his time as owner of Millwall football club, an experience that opened the door to the TV exposure (usually defending the club after their fans caused trouble) that ultimately led to the Dragons Den. Before that came the time when he bought and turned round the fortunes of Contessa, or as the President put it, “got into women’s underwear!” This was something he clearly found comfortable as he has since launched his own lingerie business, Boux Avenue, and added Robert Dyas, the home and garden business.
Theo talked about life in the Dragons’ Den, the hits and misses of his investments and some of the characters who have pitched. What does he consider to be the secret of successful pitching? Knowing your business and common sense!
Theo also talked about his friendship with The Tall Fellow, Peter Jones and their love of cars. According to Theo, Peter knows nothing about cars and has an embarrassing fleet, most of which he cannot fit in! To help, Theo bought him a Maybach… and then sent him the bill.
Theo was an entertaining and popular speaker, and the President was pleased to offer him an Honorary membership for the next year.
The raffle prizes were won by Nic Recardo (£100) Emily Waits (£50) and Steve Dennis (£25).