Was there ever an entrepreneur more qualified for a knighthood than
David Gold? The former East End brickie with the Midas touch has spent 40 years building successful businesses in property, retail, newspaper publishing, football and air travel, and is now worth some £500m. It's just the kind of record that you'd think would qualify him for the gong he hankers after. So why, then, has another Honours List come and gone leaving Gold disappointed? Blame our leaders, says the FT, who doubtless baulk at the fact that he made his early money in soft porn. Not that he's ashamed of it. "Girly mags are wonderful. Think of the joy they have brought to millions."
Gold has had a mixed year. Ann Summers, the sex-store chain "feminised" by his daughter, Jacqueline, continues to go from strength to strength and he got a great price selling Gold Air, the chartered jet business he started in 1997. But he's still mourning the relegation of his football club, Birmingham City, from the Premiership and his autobiography, Pure Gold: The Ultimate Rags To Riches Tale, has not proved the blockbuster he hoped.
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Still, you've got to admire a man who begins a chapter: "Several months after the trauma of seeing my best friend John and my wife Beryl having sex in my swimming pool" says The Sunday Times. And Gold's rise from the terrible poverty of his upbringing (his mother lying in bed spitting blood after having all her teeth removed at 30, his father's philandering and thieving, and his close brushes with the Krays and Richardsons) makes for startling reading even if rivals in the football business claim they're
fed up with his stories.
As Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan told The Guardian. "If I see another David Gold interview on the poor East End Jewish boy done good, I'll impale myself on one of his dildos."
The chief constant in Gold's life is his brother and partner, Ralph. They started out running a stall selling pin-up mags, before progressing to a shop in Soho in the 1960s and then moving full-scale into property. Ralph, a former British Army boxing champion, handled negotiations; David plotted strategy and organised. Together, they developed a fearsome reputation as a tough team and a pragmatic one. In the early 1970s, after a brush with the law in the form of a failed prosecution on three charges of obscenity, the brothers joined forces with their rival, David Sullivan. "We were competing so ferociously that we were stifling each other's profitability," says Gold.
This led to the 1986 launch of the Sunday Sport (think big breasts and UFOs) and the 1994 buyout of Birmingham City. Gold has always had an eye for opportunity, says The Daily Telegraph. The brothers were inspired to move into private-jet travel in the 1990s because of the poor service they received as they flew around the country following Birmingham FC, for example. At 69, he is still looking for the next new thing. "Nothing is forever. You move on to the next challenge," he says. After the turmoil of his break up with Beryl, Gold has a new girlfriend; they live in a "spotless" mansion in Surrey with its own golf course. Every so often, he gets out the original FA Cup (bought for £488,620 last year) and decks it with Birmingham's blue and white ribbons. The contrast with his early years couldn't be starker.
"I have to pinch myself sometimes," says Gold. But the toughness remains. A sign at the end of his drive reads: "Firearms in continuous use on these premises."
Gold's six top tips for fledgling entrepreneurs
1. "There is an element of happenstance, characteristic of many private entrepreneurs in the career of the Gold brothers," says the FT. But ultimately you make your own luck. David Gold offers the following advice to fledgling entrepreneurs.
2. Relatives who work closely together need well-defined roles. With the Golds, Ralph is the deal-maker, David does logistics. "If everyone had been trying to cut deals we'd have failed."
3. Vertically integrated businesses, which make, distribute and sell products, are unpopular with the City. But they work because you never lose margin to customers or suppliers.
4. Many businesses collapse because they grow too fast. Gold Group deliberately put its foot on the brake when it needed space to sort out things like warehousing and delivery systems.
5. "Be prepared to work however many hours it takes" and cultivate a nit-picking knowledge of the minutiae of your business. This will allow you to fix problems quickly.
6. Rivals can become important allies. Note the Gold brothers' close collaboration with David Sullivan.
Move with your market. By repositioning the Ann Summers brand as saucy, friendly and above all female-friendly, the Gold Group established a new high-street niche miles apart from the usual seedy image of traditional sex shops.
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