Gerald Ratner – Guest Speaker

Gerald Ratner took over as CEO of the family jewellery chain in the mid 80s, becoming one of Britain’s best known businessmen.

He transformed it from 130 stores with sales of £13m, to a public company with 2,500 stores and sales of over £1.2bn. By 1990, Ratner’s was the world’s largest jewellery retailer with profits in excess of £120m.

Following a high profile gaffe in which he described some of the products sold in the stores as ‘total crap’, he was forced to sell the business.

Gerald Ratner could not have predicted the damage caused by his casual remarks about his best selling line. He went from the world’s biggest jeweller to nothing in a stroke.

In 2003 he launched a new venture, geraldonline.com. The specialist diamond retailer sells jewellery, watches and hallmarked gold and silver through a secure site. It has formed alliances with a number of partners including SB&T, an Indian based producer, Goldsmiths and Royal Brierly – the only UK manufacturer of traditional hand blown crystal. The online business is already the largest of its kind in Britain.

After clawing his way back to the top, Gerald talks with typical candour about the rollercoaster journey and the valuable lessons learned.