Life & Culture

Why the Travelex chief executive is converting his cash into culture


Don’t mix business with pleasure? Lloyd Dorfman, the chief executive of Travelex, might just disagree.

Mr Dorfman, 55, famous for running the world’s largest foreign-exchange specialist, and worth an estimated £480 million, according to last month’s Sunday Times Rich List, is using his business prowess to invest in other interests.

Together with his son Charles, 25, he has joined the board of Daniel Broch’s independent cinema group Everyman Media, which recently bought the chain of Screen Cinemas in London and the South East. Now comprising eight cinemas, the group is undergoing a £100m expansion and plans to roll out 50 venues in the next five years.

Travelex boss Lloyd Dorfman: "It's incumbent upon anybody who makes money in business to give something back"

“I think of it in airline terms, because of my own business,” says Mr Dorfman, whose firm provides foreign-exchange payment facilities for big business as well as spending-money for overseas travellers. “If home cinema is first class and multiplex screens are economy, then the Everyman is business class.

“The Everyman has a very loyal following. Now it’s about scaling it up and rolling it out, making it into a nation chain. It’s an exciting project.”

This is the latest of Mr Dorfman’s arts-related roles. Last year he was appointed chairman of the Roundhouse performing arts centre in Camden, North London, which has hosted the Kaiser Chiefs, Mark Ronson and Sir Paul McCartney, among others.

“People of my age have fond memories of the Roundhouse as it became an iconic performing venue in the 60s,” he tells JC Business. “I remember being there in 1968 for the all-night concert with the Doors and Jefferson Airplane. People say that if you remember it you weren’t really there, but being a nice Jewish boy, I do.

“I pass it on my morning on my way to work and every evening on my way home,” adds the Hampstead resident, acknowledging that he has spent a lot of time getting involved in the arts one way or another. “I enjoy these things. I don’t play golf. I’m not into horse-racing and I don’t want to own a football team. Taking what I have learnt from building and running a global business to helping these sorts of organisations is something I enjoy.”

Travelex too is affiliated to the arts world — currently in its sixth year of sponsorship for the National Theatre’s £10-a-seat season, a contract Mr Dorfman says it intends to renew.

So does he see a responsibility on successful Jewish entrepreneurs to give something back? “Definitely. I think that’s unquestionable. It’s incumbent upon anybody who makes money in business to put something back, and you do that in the things that interest you. And for Jewish businesspeople, obviously we all do our thing across the community organisations, and it’s nice to support things outside the organisations. One should do both.”

Mr Dorfman gives to a variety of Jewish organisations, including Jewish UJIA, CST, Jewish Care, Norwood, the Holocaust Educational Trust and Maccabi. He also chairs the ORT business breakfasts.

His work life is also busy. He was last year appointed deputy chairman of Quest, a leading corporate security and intelligence firm, but is particularly proud of the Travelex empire that he has built. The company boardroom is filled with framed consumer-business awards and plaques commemorating significant milestones in Travelex’s history.

Founded by Mr Dorfman in 1976, Travelex sold a majority stake to Apax Partners for more than £1 billion in 2005. Last year, the company paid $440 million (£220m) to acquire Ruesch International, a US-based business-services-payment company. Travelex operates in 107 airports and 33 countries, although not yet Israel.

According to the most recent company accounts, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2007 were £107 million. Its total borrowings were approaching £1.4 billion but Mr Dorfman believes Travelex is financially well-placed. “Touch wood, the end of our first quarter we are on budget, which I think in the current environment is a good place to be. Our budget this year represents about a 20 per cent growth on last year, which in turn was about a 17 per cent growth on the previous year.” 

He says consumers have not stopped travelling; they are just changing their destinations. “People may be more attracted to going to the US than going to Europe because of the way the currencies have moved, but I don’t think we are at a stage where people won’t travel.”

Where should British holidaymakers go to get the most for their pound? He notes there has been a big surge in US dollars. “In terms of emerging currencies, the Turkish lira and South African rand are popular. We are also seeing growth in the Eastern Central European countries; Czech crown and Polish zloty. People are adjusting their destinations and being fuelled by the airlines — both low-cost and traditional — that will stimulate the market with price.”

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