In Gerald Ronson: Leading from the Front, the last of the great British tycoons reveals how he fought his way to the top of the business ladder, lost everything twice, then clawed his way back up again.
Amazingly for a man who now holds an iconic status in British business, Ronson quit school before his 15th birthday to work with his father in the family's furniture factory, and as a young man he and his friends were street fighters, using their fists to take on the British fascist movement. This propelled into a role as a leader in the country's Jewish community, and he is now considered to b the most influential secular Jew in the UK.
Ronson will forever be associated with the famous Guinness affair, which was the biggest financial scandal of the '80s. He was found guilty after a media circus of a trial in which the cards were stacked against him and he spent six months in jail. Years later, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that it had been an unfair trial. True to character, he organised his life in prison, tried to assist his fellow inmates and has since helped many of them find their way back into society.
After Guinness, which Ronson calls the greatest crisis in his life, he suffered a major financial crash that nearly bankrupted him, and he has spent the last two decades rebuilding his empire and reputation.
Now in his 70s, he spends a great deal of time raising money for charities and good causes. His company, Heron, was for a time the second-largest private company in the country, and he is arguably the most respected property developer in Europe. He is also responsible for bringing cut-price petrol to Britain, and it was he who turned petrol stations into convenience stores and introduced self-service at the pumps.
Told in his own tough, no-nonsense words, Ronson's insights into British business, the British Establishment and justice system, and his family, friends and foes make this the single most important autobiography of the year.