Sir Tim Waterstone (born 30 May 1939) is a British businessman, author and philanthropist. He is the founder of Waterstones, the United Kingdom-based bookselling retail chain, the largest in Europe.

Tim Waterstone
Timothy John Stuart Waterstone

(1939-05-30) 30 May 1939 (age 80)
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
EducationTonbridge School
Alma materSt Catharine's College, Cambridge
OccupationBusinessman, author
Spouse(s)Rosie Alison

Early lifeEdit

Tim Waterstone was born on 30 May 1939 in Glasgow, Scotland.[1][2][3] He grew up in Crowborough, East Sussex, England.[2] He was educated at Tonbridge School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he read English.[1][2]


Waterstone worked for a broking firm in Calcutta, India.[1] Upon his return to England he worked as a marketing manager for Allied Breweries, 1964–73 and then W.H. Smith, 1973–81.[2]

Waterstone founded the bookselling chain Waterstone's in 1982, after he took a £6000 redundancy payment from W.H. Smith. He set up his first store in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, west London; his personal model of literary bookselling proved successful and ten years later, in 1992, Waterstone's had grown to be the largest bookselling group in Europe. [2][4] He became the founder chairman of HMV Media Group in 1998, which merged the businesses of Waterstone's and HMV.[5] He left the group in 2001.[5]

Waterstone chaired the DTI Working Group on Smaller Quoted Companies and Private Investors in 1999.[1] He was a founder investor in Bookberry, a Moscow booksellers modelled on Waterstone's.[6] He became the chairman of Read Petite, an e-book company, in 2013.[5]

Waterstone has published four novels: Lilley & Chase (Hodder 1994), An Imperfect Marriage (Hodder 1995), A Passage of Lives (Hodder 1996) and In For A Penny In For A Pound (Atlantic 2010).[2] He has also published a semi-autobiographical business book, Swimming Against The Stream (Macmillan 2006) and many articles in the arts and business media. His memoir, The Face Pressed Against A Window, was published by Atlantic Books in February 2019.

Philanthropy and political activityEdit

Waterstone was a chairman or board member of English International (1987–92), the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1990–97), Portman House Trust (1994–96), the Academy of Ancient Music (1990–95), Virago Press (1993–95), Jazz FM (1991–1993), the London International Festival of Theatre (1990–92), the Elgar Foundation (1992–98), the British Library (1995–97), King's College London Library (2000–02), Yale University Press (1992–2013), Chelsea Stores (1996–2007), FutureStart (1992–2009), Virago Press (1995–1996), Hill Samuel UK Emerging Companies Investment Trust plc (1996–2000) and Downing Classic VCT (1998–2003).[1]

He has sat on the Booker Prize Management Committee, and acted as the Chairman of Judges for the Prince's Youth Business Trust Awards.[1] He served as a member of the visiting committee of Cambridge University Library (2007–2013).[1] He chaired Shelter's 25th Anniversary Appeal.[1] He served as Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University (2007–2015).[7]

Waterstone supports the Labour Party (he chose Clement Attlee as his 'hero' in the initial 2001 BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives).[8] He was opposed to the Iraq War and took part in demonstrations against it.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Waterstone is twice divorced.[8] He is married to the TV and film producer and novelist Rosie Alison.[2] They have eight children, one of them being actress Daisy Waterstone. He resides in Holland Park, London.[2][5]

Waterstone is a member of the Garrick Club.[1] He was knighted in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to bookselling and to charity.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Timothy John Stuart WATERSTONE". Debrett's. Retrieved 28 May 2016.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "My Secret Life: Tim Waterstone, businessman and author, 71". The Independent. 8 October 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014. Mr Tim Waterstone, bookseller, 74
  4. ^ John Stevens (12 January 2012). "No more problems for grocers: Waterstones gives up on its apostrophe because it's not practical anymore". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d Harris, John (9 April 2013). "Tim Waterstone: 'If reading is going be all digital in 50 years, so be it'". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  6. ^ Barrett, Claer (4 February 2011). "Oligarch poised to bid for Waterstone's". Financial Times.
  7. ^ "Our history". Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "Interview: Tim Waterstone, businessman". The Scotsman. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2016.

External linksEdit

Academic offices
Preceded by
George Younger, 4th Viscount Younger of Leckie
Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University
Succeeded by