Gerald Irving Ratner
(born 1949 in London
), is a British businessman. He is best known as the millionaire former chief executive
of the major British jewellery company Ratners Group (now the Signet Group
), when he achieved notoriety after making a speech jokingly denigrating its products which caused the company's near collapse.
Gerald Ratner based his philosophy of business
on his experiences as a boy in Petticoat Lane Market
. He observed that "the people who shouted the loudest and appeared to give the best offers sold the most."
Ratner joined the family business in 1966, and on this basis he built up an extremely successful chain of jewellers during the 1980s, of which he was chief executive. The shops shocked the formerly staid jewellery industry by displaying fluorescent orange posters advertising cut price bargains, and by offering low price ranges.
Although widely regarded as "tacky", the shops and their wares were nevertheless extremely popular with the public, until Ratner made a speech at the Institute of Directors
on April 23 1991
. During the speech, he joked :
We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?" I say, because it's total crap.
He compounded this by going on to remark that some of the earrings were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long."
Today, Ratner's gaffe is still famous in the corporate world, as an example on the value of branding and image over quality. Such gaffes are now sometimes called Doing a Ratner, and Ratner himself has acquired the soubriquet "The Sultan of Bling". Ratner has said in his defence that it was a private function which he did not expect to be reported, and his remarks were not made seriously.
After an unsuccessful attempt to become a jewellery consultant in France during the mid 1990s, he set up a health club in Henley-on-Thames
in 1996, which was sold for £3.9m in 2001. Ratner now runs, in collaboration with Goldsmiths, the online jewellery business Gerald Online
References and notes