Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2006: Successful Settlers

Our foreign-born enterprise champions come from all parts of the globe and their businesses range from hedge funds to kiddies' buggies.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


Born: Czech Republic

In the internet age, the battle against computer viruses is unrelenting.

And Sophos is in the front line, taking on the hackers from its new £32m state-of-the-art headquarters in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. With 20m users of its anti-virus products, Sophos is one of those classic niche high-tech businesses that Britain is so good at producing. It was founded in 1985 when Czech-born Hruska met business partner Peter Lammer at Oxford University. They hit it off and Sophos - 'intelligence' in Greek - was the result. Inevitably, it was tough going at first - by 1987 they were seriously considering moving into importing Italian crockery. But they hung in there and today Sophos is a world leader - two-thirds of the FTSE-100 companies are protected by its products. Hefty investment in 2003-04 and the acquisition of a Canadian rival dented Sophos' normal profits growth. Sales, however, have grown from £23m to £66m over the past five years.


Born: Greece

Ikos, meaning 'home' in Greek, is the name of one of the the most successful hedge fund groups in London. Ikos (UK) was started in 1992 by Greek-born Elena Ambrosiadou, a former BP employee who rose to become its youngest-ever senior executive at the age of 27. As a private experiment, she put $100,000 of her own money into an account that traded foreign exchange through a computer programme of her own design. When the fund went up 50% in two years, she decided to call it Ikos and work on it full time. Ikos now has $2 billion of funds under management, and one of its flagship funds reported returns of 25.8% in the first half of a very tough 2005. Last year, Ambrosiadou took a salary and dividends of nearly £15.9m, making her the best-paid female executive in Britain.


Born: Israel

Former Israeli tank commander Gamil Magal claims to be a specialist in turning unprofitable companies into profitable ones, a skill he is currently exercising on a group of poorly performing UK automotive components manufacturers.

His businesses - including latest acquisition AP Driveline Technologies, purchased last year - turn out everything from jacks and thermostats to steering, braking and clutch mechanisms, supplying car makers such as Ford, BMW, Nissan and Mitsubishi. His company, Reading-based Magal Engineering, was born out of an MBO at Adwest Engineering in 2002, led by Magal. The company made profits in the following year of £4m on sales of £55.6m.


Born: Italy

A larger-than-life Italian chef and TV personality, Antonio Carluccio and his wife have operated a restaurant in London's Covent Garden for 33 years. They opened their first shop in 1991 and have built up a string of restaurants and delicatessens around London, as well as an outside catering business. Carluccio explains how he became a chef: 'When I left Italy and found myself alone, far away and in need of good food, it was then that I started to cook and become passionate about the food that came from my home country.' In the year to September '04, Carluccio's made a profit of £2.3m on sales of £27.8m. It is looking to float with a £50m valuation, making the 21.3% stake held by the Carluccio family worth about £10.65m.


Born: Italy

With 23 stores in Britain and sales of its products worldwide, Mama's and Papa's, the Huddersfield-based pram and pushchair company, goes from strength to strength as one of the leading nursery goods brands. In 2004-05, the company turned in £5.1m profit on £92.5m sales, having diversified into baby clothes, toys and furniture. The business was started in 1980 after Luisa Scacchetti failed to find a stylish pushchair on the UK high street. Compelled to fly to her native Italy to make her purchase, on her return her newly acquired buggy was a big hit with friends. Spotting a gap in the market, she opened a shop to sell the imported vehicles, and Mama's and Papa's was born.


Born: India

With press reports surfacing again that Cobra Beer is considering a £50m float, founder Karan Bilimoria will have been delighted with the haul of 13 gold medals he achieved at the prestigious Monde Selection awards in Brussels in July. Bilimoria left his native Hyderabad at the age of 19 to train as a chartered accountant in England, but got bored. A spell importing polo gear from India was followed by the realisation that there was no premium Indian beer brand to sell into the burgeoning Indian restaurant trade. Cobra was launched in 1990, right into the teeth of the worst recession for decades. In 1995, his partner quit and Bilimoria turned to venture capital to buy his stake. He now has 72% of the equity. A year later, quality problems with his brewery in India forced him to switch production to Britain's largest independent brewer, Charles Wells. It didn't slow him down much - Cobra turned over £20m last year.


Born: Kenya

Not content with the British market, the Patel brothers are now taking their Waymade Healthcare generic drugs business overseas, via its Amdipharm subsidiary. Launched in 2003, Amdipharm specialises in developing drugs with markets too small to interest the giant pharma firms. Europe, the Middle East and Australasia are the first areas for expansion, but America is the ultimate prize. Voted UK Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2001, Vijay, a pharmacist by trade, and Bhikhu, an architect, are still storming ahead.

In 2004, the Essex-based company's profits hit £22.5m on £296m sales.

By the time Vijay was 30, he had 10 shops and moved into pharmaceutical wholesaling. Waymade was born and has gone from strength to strength.

With Bhikhu as MD and financial controller, Waymade is on course to be a mini-Glaxo. The Patels are worth about £444m by our reckoning.


Born: Kenya

Bharat Shah says the support of his family has helped him build Sigma - also in the generic drugs business - from a single pharmacy in Watford to a company with profits of £4.5m on turnover of £200m in the year to August 2004. Two of his brothers work in the business - Manish, an accountant, and Kamal, who works in operations. His son Halul runs the retail pharmacies.

By the mid-1990s, Shah was moving further up the supply chain. 'We decided not to be just a trader but to go into manufacturing. We got licences for popular generics and had the products manufactured outside western Europe, where the cost bases are very low.' Sigma now has access to about 100 generic licences, ranging from antibiotics to cardiac treatments.

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