Any other business

Five entrepreneurs who made it into the House of Lords

3 min read

04 November 2015

Often seen as the final resting place for greying and seasoned politicians, a look through the roster at the House of Lords does reveal a few very successful entrepreneurs – as Real Business found out.

The House of Lords caused the government a headache recently over tax credits, and it’s frequently criticised – not least for its size and for the fact that (with a very few exceptions) its members are not elected. 

However, at a time when the phrase “career politician” has become a term of abuse, some members of the House of Lords can at least say that they know about business. A growing number of their lordships and ladyships are entrepreneurs who have founded and run their own companies.

Baroness Lane Fox of Soho 

As one of the co-founders of lastminute.com, Martha Lane Fox was at the forefront of the first dot.com boom and inspired hundreds of thousands of others to start up online businesses. 

Having suffered a life-threatening accident a few years ago, she now divides her time between business, philanthropy and public service. She’s also the youngest woman ever in the Upper Chamber. “I still find the Lords intimidating…it’s important to get it right,” she recently told the The Telegraph.

Read more about Martha Lane Fox:

Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea 

The founder and chairman of Indian beer brand Cobra, Karan Bilimoria is a qualified chartered accountant and a law graduate of Cambridge University. 

Cobra, which Bilimoria established with a friend in a flat in Fulham, London, is now one of the UK’s fastest-growing beer brands and after less than 20 years it has a retail value turnover of over £178m, with exports to almost 50 countries.

Read more about Karan Bilimoria:

Lord Harris of Peckham 

Philip Harris developed the family carpet business from a shop in south east London to become the largest carpet and floor covering retailer in Britain. His estimated wealth is £285m. He has contributed extensively to the education sector, establishing a college in Oxford and a number of secondary schools.

Baroness Mone of Mayfair 

Michelle Mone started life as a designer of bras before founding her own bra lingerie company, MJM International with her then husband followed by Ultimo Brands International. 

Originally a labour supporter, in August this year Mone agreed to lead a government review into entrepreneurship and small businesses for David Cameron.

Read more about Michelle Mone:

Baron Kirkham of Old Cantley

Graham Kirkham founded sofa retailer DFS with just £25,000 and now he and his family are thought to be worth around £1.15bn. 

Realising that he could cut furniture prices by selling direct to the customer, over 41 years Kirkham has grown the firm (which started above a snooker hall just outside Doncaster) to nearly 80 stores with three factories and more than 2,600 staff. 

Read more about Graham Kirkham: