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The Entrepreneurial Exchange


John Boyle Chairman of Hamilton Portfolio Ltd & Motherwell FC, is one of Scotland's best known entrepreneurs. In 1997 he was Scotland's Entrepreneur of the Year.

John was born in Hamilton in Lanarkshire, Scotland and in 1972, started work in the travel industry with Vista jet. After three years, he decided to set up on his own as an aviation consultant.

In 1975, he established Falcon Leisure Group which was at the forefront of providing cheap European leisure travel and grew rapidly, moving into holidays and other areas. Several other companies were acquired and, by 1982, the company was carrying 150,000 passengers.

John sold Falcon Leisure in 1983 and became a main board director of Owners Abroad plc. As Chief Executive of the company, with £100m turnover and 1,000 employees, he was responsible for strategy and development and implemented a policy of organic growth and acquisition. In 1990, Owners Abroad operating companies were the third largest tour operating company in the UK having outpaced the entire industry in relative growth and output. In 1990, John resigned from Owners Abroad plc before setting up Direct Holidays.

Direct Holidays steadily expanded in the 90s and was ultimately sold to Airtours plc for a cash consideration of £82m.

John's contribution to the travel industry has been recognised on numerous occasions.In 1998 he was voted the Travel Trade's Personality of the Year. He was chairman of ABTA Tour Operators Council in 1987, 88, 89.  In April 1999, John established The Hamilton Portfolio Ltd with Andrew Lapping of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Hamilton Portfolio is an investment management company with a particular interest in supporting technology companies, radio, media, travel, telecomms and printing.

Among Hamilton's investments are Axeon Ltd in Dundee, Yellowfin Ltd in Southampton, NetIDme based in Lanarkshire, Gemini Press in Shoreham, Imagine Projects Ltd in Glasgow, GlobalExpense Ltd in London and SRT in Bristol. John is a director of many of these companies and is actively involved in assisting the management. Hamilton are not passive investors.

In 1998, John took a controlling interest in Motherwell Football Club and is still the club's Chairman today.

For the last 15 years, John has been an active supporter of the little known charity Children in Distress which provides nursing care and therapy for abandoned, disabled and terminally ill children in eastern Europe. The charity runs hospices, community nursing programmes, a sheltered holiday centre and a child development centre to nurture infants and children born with disabilities or who are suffering with AIDS or autistic spectrum disorders. John is dedicated to raising funds and sponsors and organises a ball each year for the charity.  In 2002, he and a group of friends cycled across Vietnam and managed to raise £89,000 in sponsorship for the charity.

John was awarded an OBE in October 2004 . He re-married in June 2007 and lives in the West End of Glasgow with his wife Donna and their six children.

Dr Charan Gill, MBE, Harlequin Leisure Investments. Charan Gill is the face and mastermind behind the hugely successful Glasgow based Harlequin Leisure Group which incorporated Harlequin Restaurant Group the largest Indian restaurant chain in the UK.

Often revered as Glasgow's Curry King by the media over the last 19 years, Charan has turned the Glaswegian passion for curry into a thriving empire of 17 restaurants across Scotland...and that's just for starters! In 1998, Charan was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List for his outstanding contribution to the food and catering industry.

It's fair to say Charan's achievements have been phenomenal. So what is the secret of his success? Rather than being born with the silver spoon syndrome, on the contrary, Charan's childhood was tough. He arrived in Glasgow from the Punjab, India in 1963 at the age of 9 with little knowledge of English or indeed the western culture. Denied a university education, he started his career as a turner and fitter at Yarrow Shipyards on the Clyde in 1969.

By 1974, he was a married man with a young child, living in a room and kitchen on the south side of Glasgow. To supplement his meagre income in the shipyards, Charan worked as a waiter in his friends restaurant, the Ashoka West End, in the evenings - and this is when his entrepreneurial flair began to flourish. He had a vision.

In 1984 when the opportunity arose to purchase the restaurant, Charan begged and borrowed to secure the deal. Through grim determination (amid at times desperation), he applied his innate ability to turn ideas into innovative concepts - and the Harlequin Empire was born. In March 2005, Charan successfully sold the Harlequin Restaurant Group and is now concentrating on Harlequin Properties and Harlequin Developments, focussing on luxury conversions and new build properties across west central Scotland.

Not content with already having built hugely successful companies and selling them, Charan's latest venture is The Quayside in Musselburgh which he has recently refurbished to his exacting standards which comprises a Restaurant, Health and Fitness Centre and also specialises in carefully tailored function requirements including Weddings, Conferences and Events.

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Venue information

No 29, Glasgow 29 Royal Exchange Square
G1 3AJ

0141 225 5615


Dr Charan Gill, MBE, Harlequin Leisure Investments


  • Mr John Boyle, OBE, The Hamilton Portfolio

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Registered in Scotland. Company registration number SC160976.
Registered office: Barncluith Business Centre, Townhead Street, Hamilton, ML3 7DP. Developed by Mercurytide