The entrepreneur David Gold, who has died aged 86, was best known for owning football clubs but also as a purveyor of lingerie and pornography.
Gold’s business career began in the 1950s when he sold science-fiction books from a kiosk in Charing Cross with his younger brother Ralph.
He then moved into selling what he called “instructional and harmless” soft pornography, staying open late and during weekends — despite being regularly fined for breaching the Sunday trading laws.
By the early 1970s, the brothers had accumulated a chain of ten shops when David Sullivan approached them to merge their competing publishing and distribution businesses into a joint venture.
Under the name, Gold Star Publications, they published such titles as Rustler, Raider and Whitehouse; the latter named — with customary chutzpah — after the anti-porn campaigner Mary Whitehouse.
In 1972, following the publication of Brutus, Lesbian Lovers and A Woman’s Look at Oral Love, David and Ralph were found not guilty at the Old Bailey and acquitted of obscenity charges.
Shortly afterwards the Golds bought the Ann Summers outlets that sold sexy lingerie and toys.
They turned the loss-making business around by expanding its chain of shops and developing the brand in the 1980s through discreet women-only home parties designed to attract new customers. Conceived by David’s daughter Jacqueline, at their peak some 4,000 parties were held every week across the UK.
In 1986, David and Ralph again joined David Sullivan to launch the Sunday Sport newspaper and related publications, which became infamous for their downmarket appeal. Of the source of his fortune, David Gold said: “Girly mags are wonderful. Think of the joy they’ve brought to millions.”
Until 2006 the brothers also owned Gold Air, an aviation charter business. Gold learned to fly and became a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. He also bought racehorses with Sullivan.
In 1993, Gold, who was denied the chance to play for his beloved West Ham as a teenager, re-entered the world of football with the purchase of Birmingham City with Sullivan. His tenure was notable for appointing 23-year-old Karren Brady (now Baroness) as its managing director, making her the first woman on the board of a Football League team.
They took Birmingham up the league only for them to be relegated, after which they sold their shares. The following year, Sullivan, Gold and Brady bought a share of West Ham United, giving them overall operational and commercial control of the club. Sullivan and Gold were appointed joint chairpersons.
His tenure was marked by various ups and downs. His Rolls-Royce Phantom was attacked by Aston Villa supporters, which he described as “the most frightening experience of my football life”.
He oversaw the move from the Boleyn Ground, also known as Upton Park, to the former Olympic stadium at Stratford in 2016.
Despite the ground’s increasing popularity with some fans, frustrating performances by the team led to abuse from others. Yet, Gold regularly attended training sessions and was considered kind and generous.
David Gold was born in Stepney, east London, the eldest of three siblings.
His father, Godfrey, was an East End criminal, known locally as “Goldy”. He was often absent, travelling, womanising and serving time in prison. Growing up in poverty near West Ham’s stadium, the young Gold showed early promise as a player for their boys’ and youth teams. When he was offered forms to sign as an apprentice for the first team his father refused to countersign them, ending any chances he might have had of making it as a professional.
Instead, he began working at the age of 14, and eventually forged a successful business career.
By 2020, according to The Sunday Times Rich List, Gold and his family were worth £460 million.
In 1957 Gold married Beryl Hunt. They had two children, Jacqueline and Vanessa, but divorced in 1972.
Hunt died in 2003 and from May 2012, he lived with his fiancée Lesley Manning.
In 2005 Gold co-wrote his autobiography Pure Gold with Bob Harris. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, and in line with his outspoken views as a football club owner, when Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan made antisemitic comments about Jews, Gold was one of the first to step up to condemn his words as “offensive”.
Gold died after a short illness on January 4, 2023, aged 86. He is survived by his daughter, Vanessa and his fiancée, Lesley Manning. Jacqueline died on March 16, 2023.
David Gold: born September 9, 1936. Died January 4, 2023
She was selling fantasy to women who dreamed of sexual allure and glamour — and redeemed it from the seedy sex shop image purveyed by her porn tycoon father, David.
When Jacqueline Gold entered her father’s business aged 19 for work experience, she considered the string of semi-respectable Ann Summers shops might prove attractive to women. Instead she found a clientele of the “seedy raincoat” type.
Gold decided to market directly to women in Tupperware-type parties, where tea and cake plus glamour underwear and the odd sex toy from the family firm might empower women within a safe, all-female setting.
She asked her father’s board for £40,000 to set up a network of 2,500 self-employed agents to organise the parties. The first one made £85 and the first year’s profit was £81,000. Today Ann Summers sales achieve £2.5million a year.
Much has changed in the way women see themselves since Gold’s first tentative tea party. Far from the image of the furtive, fumbling male, Jacqueline Gold’s vision was to free women’s sexuality as part of their own emancipation.
She also understood women’s sense of humour about the whole enterprise. They bought vibrators — but also purple underwear, nurses’ outfits and school uniforms, not to titillate men but to wear them in the streets as part of a hen party or a private joke.
Gold, who has died of cancer aged 62, just weeks after her father’s death, was appointed chief executive of the retail brands Ann Summers and Knickerbox in 1987, and was the creator of the Rampant Rabbit sex toy.
But she still had legal battles to fight for the respectability she thought the shops deserved. It took time before leading shopping malls such as Bluewater and Westfield accepted the presence of Ann Summers shops in their aisles.
But the fun, the fantasy and the sex appeal fostered by the TV series Sex and the City and later the book Fifty Shades of Grey soon filtered into leading fashion brands. According to the 2019 Sunday Times Rich List, Gold was the 16th wealthiest woman in the country.
Her own background was less secure. She was the elder daughter of East End-born businessman David Gold and Beryl Hunt, who divorced when she was 12 and her sister Vanessa, six. Jacqueline was abused by her stepfather, which she claimed her mother ignored.
After Surbiton High School she worked briefly for Royal Doulton before entering her father’s business. She married lingerie manufacturer Tony D’Silva in 1980 and they divorced ten years later.
Her public image as a successful entrepreneur was reinforced by her striking good looks and her appearance on business and entertainment TV shows.
She published two books: Good Vibrations (1995) and A Woman’s Courage, (2007) re-issued a year later as Please Let it Stop, following a libel suit.
She was appointed CBE in 2016 and was a guest on Desert Island Discs two years later. Her castaway’s favourite was Wishin’ On A Star by Rose Royce and her luxury item was her own feather pillow.
The business side of her life flourished, but she found it difficult to overcome her “challenging and unconventional childhood” .
However, in 2016 she told RadioTimes.com she had always been a survivor and not a victim.
“What happened to me I saw as cruelty, not sex” she said of the abuse she suffered. Finding financial independence was her escape route.
Jacqueline married Dan Cunningham in 2006; they tried to start a family but split after two failed IVF attempts. They reconciled and undertook fertility treatment in the US, which resulted in Jacqueline becoming pregnant with twins.
But only one, the girl, Scarlett, survived, while their son Alfie, was diagnosed with a pre-birth condition preventing brain development. He died at eight months old.
“We try to keep his memory alive — we talk about him all the time, we’ve got pictures of him everywhere,” she said.
In 2016 Gold was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her natural ebullience kept her cheerful and she continued to look on the bright side throughout “the brutality” of the journey.
As a fighter for women’s self-empowerment, she was only too aware of the devastating effects of hair loss through chemotherapy.
“That first clump of hair coming out really chokes you up.”
The initial prognosis after a scan and a lumpectomy, was positive, but then the cancer came back. Gold’s attitude, to the end, remained optimistic.
She is survived by her husband Dan, her daughter Scarlett and her sister Vanessa, who is now chief executive and managing director of Ann Summers. Her father David died in January.
Jacqueline Gold: born July 16, 1960. Died
March 16, 2023