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on 1 October 2014
I heard Gerald speak at a conference, and prior to that had heard about his fall from the top. This book captures an easy to read and captivating story of someone who was passionate about what he did and honest about his mistakes. As a teacher, I'm always on the lookout for good books to recommend to students - and this one fits the bill very nicely.
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on 3 February 2014
Apart from an explanation of the myths behind his epic fall from grace this book paints an accurate portrait of the lifestyle, attitudes and ambitions that existed in the 50's, 60's and 70's. For anyone who grew up in North West London during the fifties, this is a must read. Its very well written, human story and a real page turner.
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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2007
I read the extracts of this book in the Sunday Times. When I acquired the book I read it in twenty four hours. It is a gripping read.

I wrote a letter to the Sunday Times which they did not publish as follows It is difficult to have sympathy for Gerald Ratner as in the recent extract from his book ( Oct 21 Review)his worst day was when he received a pay out of £350,000 which he claimed barely covered his negative equity and the coming year's school fees.

From being a very fat cat on £650,000 a year he had his chauffeur taken away and did not know where to the put the petrol in his car. Unemployed and penniless and down to his last £350,000. He was the architect of his own downfall

As suffering goes it was on the light side.

You start out by not wanting to like him because you assume that as he inherited the family firm he had a privileged upbringing and that when he took it over he went for world domination and failed.

He had a tougher time than you think. He relatives did not not get on in business and his sister committed suicide over religious prejudice within this own family.

He learned the trade and took over from his family to preside over a massive takeover of most of their rivals to become the biggest jewellery retailer in the world. It is easy to criticise him now but it was the order of the day. He would have been encouraged to get bigger and bigger to make more and more profits.It is the nature of the eighties and also public companies. The city and the financiers urge them to grow and grow and then it goes wrong they get criticised.

He became a victim of his own success. If there is one thing you learn in this life there are very few friends who will help you out when you are down. They are happy to know you when you are successful but they are scarce when there is no money in it.

Quite a few times in the book he expresses disappointment that people who he had helped and made a lot of money for turned against him when things went bad.He was no exception.

Also once the press decide they have it in for you then you become a target and they can and will bring you down. We have seen it in recent months with Northern Rock. In the last few years it was feted as a great success but once there were problems the same people who feted it claimed the model was faulty.

His successful years were fascinating as he seemed to be able to raise very large sums of money and then take over companies that had been around for a long time and who had been much larger than his company. The first mistake he made was to think that somehow a public company was his company.

Also he believed people when they called him a genius for making so much money.

His fall has been well documented but it may have happened because of the recession. He helped it on its way by repeating a joke .

It took him a while to regain his life.He did not go bankrupt and to most people he was still well off in deed.

The same people who had loved him would not touch him with a barge pole because of his name. After a period of no success he eventually created a health club and sold it on then became Geraldonline.

There was not that much about his rise and it was interesting that he did not seem to bethat bitter but has became a public speaker because of it.

Over the years I have heard people claim that they could easily get a job if they lost their present job because they have so many mates.You will find those mates will disappear as soon as you are out of work. They only want you if you have a job.

I now admire him for being so frank about his rise and fall and rise. He was a victim of the time and it could all easily happen again.He did not spend too much time bemoaning his lot. Hie picked himself up and got on with this life. Anyone can fail but how many can come back again?

It is pathetic to blame your life on some failure and not do something about it. Whilst you are still breathing you can come back.

If you make a decision you have to take the results be they good or bad. People now want to blame anyone but themselves. If they succeed it is because they worked hard and they are super intelligent. It they fail it is everyone else's fault. You have to take the results on the chin whatever the outcome and come out fighting.

If you follow recent history it has a habit of repeating itself. We never learn. My view is that if you have not made every mistake in the book hopefully only once then you have not done enough.

I have had people boast or intimidate to me that they do not make mistakes.They need to get out more and do more work then mistakes will come their way. They are protecting themselves by doing as little as possible in the hopes of not making a mistake. I have had some very clever bosses who have made some great mistakes with no sympathy from me as they have claimed they were so bright.

A fascinating book and a pleasure to read

Some of the best quotes are when his accountant decided Ratners needed some university graduates. He hired six of them and none of them lasted because none them had a work ethic and subsequently they just didn't get respect from the staff.

He said he was not a great innovator but he could see where other jewellers were succeeding and where Ratners was failing

He had people in the industry come up to him and say you have completely ruined your fathers business " I just smiled and said must be why sales are up 50 per cent"

In 1986 he became the retailer of the year and accepting the award was one of the highlights of his career and it added to the sensation that he could walk on the water . Someone told him to be careful they told him that that those who are feted are eventually brought down. He thought they were talking absolute nonsense

When he was trying to rehabilitate himself he said people missed meetings and did not return his calls. He had to get used to people treating him as though he was invisible.

Welcome to the real world.
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on 24 August 2013
This is an honest business auto-biography. There is no trumpet blowing, egotistical statements or false modesty that you find in other books of this genre. If you want to learn about some of the mistakes that can be made when running a business - Ratner tells them with refreshing honesty.
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on 18 April 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this.I worked for the firm, making and converting a lot of 'Ratner' shops,and his house at Bray, it was a buzz working for him, I liked the guy, and the book is spot-on
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on 26 January 2011
since reading this book i have built a small shrine to the ratner business and gerald, i booming love it!
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on 24 July 2008
If you are in your forties or older then the name, Gerald Ratner will mean something to you. He epitomised the go-getting 80s. On first name terms with the PM, few can dispute he was one of the big-name, business leaders of that era.
He took his family firm of high street jewellers into the retail big league. Starting in the family firm at the age of 15 as a shop assistant he rose to MD of a 130 shop empire at age 30. He then he went on to acquire his much larger high street rivals, H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

There is no doubt that during those years Gerald Ratner had a big following. However, I think there were also a lot of people who wanted to see his downfall (and as we all know, unfortunately they finally got it.) He admits himself that he is flash. I should say, not an admirable quality in my mind. He spent his early years competing with his friends Michael Green and Charles Saatchi buying £1000 Saville Row suits at a time before power dressing existed. There are some hilarious accounts of this time, like when he had a bet with Saatchi to see who could drive home fastest from Central London to St John's Wood - in reverse! And it was in a RR Corniche. I found it quite amusing that even as FTSE bosses the three of them used to meet in the evenings in Gerald's parents basement to play snooker. They even had their food delivered through the window so as not to disturb the parents.
He also describes how the family members were always fighting so much they were unable to address each other directly in meetings and had to talk through Mr Hussein, the long standing company accountant.

I like the bit also where he thinks he needs to buy a helicopter and so goes out to look at one. He starts looking at the $500k one, then gets tempted by a mid-range one but then he is allowed to climb into a $2.5m Sikorsky and, using the justification that he can have meetings in it, decides on the spot that he has to have that one. The amusing thing is that he then spends so much time picking everyone up and dropping them off that he says he could have got to where he was going quicker by train.

There are some touching moments such as when his wife says she wants a divorce and kicks him out of the family home. He honestly admits that he was incapable of doing anything for himself during his single life in a friend's dingy flat.
The account of his downfall is also touching and sad. Despite the fact that he is certainly never going to starve you can't help but feel for him and the family. There are also many other sad bits along the way but you will have to read those...

This book is a good read. It is educational and entertaining. It takes you back to how life and business were in part of London in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I liked it so much that I could not put it down and read it in a single afternoon sitting.

Totally recommend. For £5 extra though I'd be tempted to buy the hardback as this is a book I will keep and one day read again.
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on 3 November 2007
I have just see the article in the daily mail and i am off to try and see if i can buy the book locally rather than wait several days

I used to work for Gerald and can truly say he was a great boss- he had a slighty different sense of humour but always visable around the office and very personable and charasmatic and knew everybody's names

About half way throught the book now, after owning it for 2 hours and it is a truthful account of his life at Ratners well written and accurate- his style of writing is truthful like his "infamous speech" and if there is one cristism it maybe a little bit truthful- he speaks as he finds

i will carry on reading but i am a avid reader of biographies such as this and this is one book i have awaited 21 years to read!

HIs respect for other buisnessmen is apparent and refers to Mr Hussien as "Mr" as he is older and refers to his friends or co directors by their first names and Jack Ratner as "Uncle jack" - Old fashioned like his values but modern thinking in an era that truly bucked the trend at the time

This book is a must if you worked in the organisation during the 80's and early 90's and for everbody else and honest account of a very succesful business during the thatcher years.

Gerald Ratner along with Branson, Roddick, Halpern and Davies were the "architects" of today's "high street" bringing us multiple retailing from the early 80's as we know it today for good or for bad! and for that reason will go down in history

That's a book i would like to see "the architects of the multiple retail"
maybe i should write it?

One last tale - I used to run a ratners football team for the staff and when gerald heard this summond me to his office and asked if he could play? I couldnt' answer that but later found out he could and then asked me to book some training and kits - The training he had in mind was to hire QPR's ground for 10 weeks! and the kit was a home and away kit
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on 29 November 2014
This has been passed round the family and enjoyed by everyone
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on 18 December 2009
Gerald Ratner's life and business was destroyed and buried by the UK media. This is his phoenix from the ashes account of fighting back against the odds when no one gave him a prayer. Fantastic, inspirational - lessons in what it means to dig deep and conquer.
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