Gerald Ratner

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Gerald Ratner
Ratner in 2020
Gerald Irving Ratner

(1949-11-01) 1 November 1949 (age 74)
London, England
EducationHendon County Grammar School
Occupation(s)Businessman and motivational speaker
  • Angela Trup
  • Moira Ratner
Children4 (2 with each wife)
RelativesAnthony Parnes (brother-in-law)
Ratner at The Telegraph Business Awards

Gerald Irving Ratner (born 1 November 1949[1]) is a British businessman. He was formerly chief executive officer of the major British jewellery company Ratners Group (now the Signet Group). He achieved notoriety after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated two of the company's products.

Early life[edit]

Gerald Ratner was born in London to a Jewish family and 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."[2]

His sister Denise Ratner was married to stockbroker Anthony Parnes, one of the Guinness Four.[3]


Ratner joined the family business in 1966 and built up an extremely successful chain of jewellers during the 1980s, of which he was CEO. The shops shocked the formerly staid jewellery industry by displaying fluorescent orange posters advertising cut-price bargains and by offering low price ranges. The Ratners Group consisted of Ratners, H. Samuel, Ernest Jones, Leslie Davis, Watches of Switzerland, and over 1,000 shops in the United States, including Kay Jewelers.

Although widely regarded as "tacky",[4] the shops and their wares were nevertheless extremely popular with the public, until Ratner made a speech addressing a conference of the Institute of Directors at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 April 1991.[5] During the speech, he commented:

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."[6]

He compounded this by going on to remark that one of the sets of earrings was "cheaper than a prawn sandwich from Marks and Spencer's, but I have to say the sandwich will probably last longer than the earrings". Ratner made a guest appearance on UK television's BBC1 talk show Wogan, the following day after his speech, to apologise and explain his joking remark the previous day that some of his company's products were "total crap".

Ratner's comments have become textbook examples of why CEOs should choose their words carefully. In the furore that ensued, customers stayed away from Ratner shops. After the speech, the value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the group's collapse.[7] Ratner hired a chairman in an attempt to stabilise the situation, and was dismissed by the new company chairman in November 1992. The group changed its name to Signet Group in September 1993.[8]

Ratner's speech is famous as an example of the value of branding and image over quality. Such gaffes are now sometimes called "doing a Ratner",[6] and Ratner himself has acquired the sobriquet "The Sultan of Bling".[9] Ratner has said that his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously. He blamed what he called aggressiveness and deliberate misinterpretation by several media outlets for the severe consumer reaction.[8]

After Ratners[edit]

Following 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 then ran, from 2003, in collaboration with SB&T International Ltd, an export manufacturing company based in India and the online jewellery business Gerald Online, which ceased trading in 2014.[10]

In 2013, during a visit to India for the inaugural eTailing India Expo, Ratner announced that he would be entering the Indian market.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Ratner has two daughters from his first marriage.[12] According to Ratner, "my first wife left me because I was never at home."[8]

He later married Moira, and they lived in Cookham, Berkshire.[13][12] They have a daughter and a son.[12]


  1. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. 1 November 2014. p. 57.
  2. ^ The Sunday Times, 15 May 1988
  3. ^ "Life and high-flying times of four partners in crime". The Scotsman. 22 December 2001. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  4. ^ Lytle, Ken; Lytle, Katie Corcoran (18 April 2011). The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups: 220 of History's Most-Regrettable Moments. p. 179. ISBN 9781440525001.
  5. ^ "Leadership Follies" (PDF). The Seven Pillars of Leadership Wisdom.
  6. ^ a b "'Doing a Ratner' and other famous gaffes". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 December 2007.
  7. ^ "It still hurts 16 years on". The Times. London. 21 October 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  8. ^ a b c Round, Simon (1 November 2007). "Interview: Gerald Ratner". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  9. ^ Ratner to address business awards Archived 24 July 2012 at, Business Cornwall, 23 January 2009
  10. ^ Wilson, Bill (29 March 2005). "Ratner prepares his return to the lions' den". BBC.
  11. ^ "UK's Gerald Ratner to launch jewellery website in India". India Digital Review. India. 16 January 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Graham, Natalie (1 November 2013). "Gerald Ratner – the rise and fall of a rough diamond". The Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  13. ^ Pogrund, Gabriel (17 September 2017). "Relative Values: the jeweller Gerald Ratner and his wife, Moira". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 3 January 2020.