At the tender age of 73 the Gold Rush has only just begun, Next Stop The FA CUP…
I met up with David Gold at his beautiful Surrey mansion spending the most wonderful and fascinating two hours of time interviewing and just talking to him. David Gold’s businesses are valued in the hundreds of million pounds bracket. I have interviewed many high profile entrepreneurs and do you know what, I love this man! I do not mean in the literate sense, I love him for his kind and open nature. Everyone I spoke to about David that knew him said that he is a lovely man and how right they are.
David Gold recently completed the sale of Sport Newspapers for £50 million, Gold Air for the same amount and sold Birmingham City FC for £82 million, a club that he purchased for a pound. Most recently he acquired a majority stake in West Ham United FC with his partner David Sullivan. At the age of 73 this great man shows no signs of slowing down.
So how do you go from being brought up in the East end of London, surrounded by abject poverty with little or no money and for the most part, brought up in a single parent family to becoming not only a highly successful entrepreneur but more so, an entrepreneur who is loved by everyone around him?
I asked David a series of questions and his answers will show you that by using a mixture of courage, determination and a lit bit of luck that anyone can do it. I interviewed David’s daughter Jacqueline Gold for our front cover feature of edition 11 and I am so proud to now have her father on the front cover.
Do you think that your challenged childhood had an impact on your desire to succeed in business?
It was so awful but at the time it is your life and you don’t know anything different. We had no TV no radio and no desire to be on a sunny beach with beautiful girls. We had no understanding of what was out there. I used to go to bed in my clothes because it was so cold.
My life journey was fuelled by the abject poverty that I faced as a child and I didn’t want to go back there. I faced poverty, sickness and near death experiences all before I was seven years old – Yes poverty has been a driving factor in my life and that’s why I have always gone the extra mile. You start to climb and claw your way up a slippery mountain, you start, you try and of course at times it seems just impossible.
I read somewhere that until recently you had a recurring nightmare that took you back to where you grew up in Stepney – Do you think that in some way you have still not accepted the things that happened to you when you were younger?
Until fairly recently I used to suffer from a horrific recurring nightmare and in this nightmare I would go back to 442 Green Street, in the East End of London and there was my mum waiting for me. Strangely enough I arrived in my Bentley but it was a fear of losing my wealth. I used to be a brick layer and I had my tool bag with me and the next thing I would be up the scaffold laying bricks in the rain and I was as I was then, wet and cold. I would wake up with my sheets off me, dripping in a cold sweat. Thankfully I do not have the dream any more.
Did you have a childhood hero when you were growing up?
Where I lived in Stepney, we had no TV, no radio and we could not afford newspapers so there was no one that I admired as a person to look up to. My father spent years in and out of jail and we were brought up by my mum and she was my hero.
My mother was an amazing person. She worked very menial jobs as a cleaner but she worked hard, had three jobs and raised me and my brother. When we were younger there was no social security like today and my mum was a proud lady. The only thing that we received as a poor family was coupons from the RO. They issued army style boots which came in any colour as long as you like black. These boots used to click as you walked due to the steel blakeys on them and when you walked on a hard floor they clicked so loud that everyone used to know that I was poor. It was almost like they were saying “Here comes the scrounger” In the old days there was no sympathy for poor people and thankfully it is different today.
What was your first car David and what do you drive now?
My first car was yellow Vauxhall Victor with chrome flutes on it. It had a heater and a radio and it was the best car that I have ever had. Before that I used to drive a motor bike and this was a quantum leap for me.
I can remember going round to pick up my future wife’s grandfather who was 92 at the time to see his daughter. He got in the car and I turned the ignition on and the radio came on and he jumped out of the car saying “I’m not getting in this car if you are driving and listening to the radio at the same time”. How funny that seems now. My every day car now is a Jaguar XKR, but I also own a Rolls Royce Phantom, which I take to West Ham Games and I also own a limited edition Blue Train Bentley, only 20 were ever built. My favourite number plate is D Gold, which is on my Phantom.
You are successful, wealthy and definitely have a skill for business, was there ever a lucky break that got you started in business or was it all just pure hard work?
Bradley it takes determination, perseverance and courage. You will never score a goal unless you get on the pitch. Get yourself in a position where you can get yourself on the pitch. Some people find success in a 9-5 job, having a couple of kids and are hugely successful. Being in business is not for everyone as you have to be a leader rather than a follower, coupled with a desire and determination to succeed. You will only get lucky if you get yourself on the pitch. There are opportunities in both good luck and bad luck, let me explain;
My good luck story starts with my first shop I leased in Charring Cross. It was a science fiction book shop and after six months of trading I was nearly bust, from taking little money. It was apparent to me why this shop had failed 5 times in 6 years. My brother called me one day while coming back to the shop to say that he had broken down. I kept the shop open until past ten o clock waiting for him. An amazing thing happened once it got dark, my shop lights lit the street up like a Christmas tree and between 8pm-10pm that night I took more money in two hours than I had taken all week. I thought I was just a fluke and that there must have been an event on so for the next three days I slept in the shop overnight and stayed open really late – It was not a fluke and my journey toward success had just begun.
My bad luck story starts with me being arrested every Sunday for months under what was then the old Sunday trading laws. I used to be in court every week with the Judge fining me 30 shillings on each occasion. After about 3 months I was back in court yet again and this time the Judge said “Not you again Gold, why don’t you sell periodicals or something”. With that I went straight to the wholesalers and said that I needed to stock periodicals. He showed me some periodicals and also King Magazine, which was the first girlie magazine to be published. I stocked up on periodicals and continued to open Sundays.
King Magazine sold out pretty much as soon as I had out it on the racks and when the police came to arrest me they couldn’t because selling periodicals on Sundays was the same as newspapers and perfectly legal. Of course I kept selling everything else but just kept an eye out for police.
I was now truly on my way and turned some bad luck into good luck. I am going to be rich, so I thought, but more bad luck was waiting around the corner. My landlord came to me one day and gave me six months’ notice of my lease as he was converting the premises into flats. I was devastated but immediately set about finding a way to buy my own lease. I did purchase four freeholds, one for 50k and the others for 20k. The one I bought for 50k I sold ten years later for £3 million pounds and two of them I still own today trading under Ann Summers.
Both the good luck and the bad luck which became good luck were both a massive turning point in my career.
Do you think the porn industry is more widely accepted in today’s modern world, or is there still a stigma attached to it?
There is no stigma with the young, they are confident and comfortable with their sexuality and of course what goes on in their homes and that is why Ann Summers has been so successful.
What has been your favourite business venture and why?
Birmingham City FC and now West Ham United FC. I got so much pleasure with Birmingham City and of course selling it for £82 million was just great. My dream is to see West Ham win the FA Cup. My other passion is flying so Gold Air was another great business for me. I own two helicopters now, a Gazelle and an EC120 and I also own a Cessna. Gold Air leased Leer Jets. I flew my EC120 to a Premier League summer meeting and when I left to take off and while everybody was looking, it failed to start!
Another great business experience was joining forces with David Sullivan. We were at one time ferocious competitors in the girlie mag business. We joined forces and became partners and made millions of pounds. Of course Sport Newspapers was also great fun, which we sold recently for £50 million pounds.
You have been on just about every business magazine cover imaginable – is there a magazine cover that you would really love to be featured on?
Raw Business Magazine of course. Like an OBE you do not actually think about it and it’s not something you pursue. Like I said my dream now is to win the FA Cup.
You have worked on and off with your brother Ralph and David Sullivan and of course your daughter. How well do you guys get on together, do you ever argue like the rest of us?
I have never had a harsh word with my daughters; we all get on really well. My brother Ralph wanted to retire recently and the newspapers reported a buyout figure of £100 million pounds. We owned a lot of prime property together.
For me right now it is all about succession planning as I really want the business to be air tight before I hand over the reins.
Being an entrepreneur can be a tough and lonely job, how do you balance the amazing highs that success brings with everyday life? In other words do you have as much fun in your personal life as you do in your business?
Entrepreneurs have to set out with the total understanding that they will have to make major sacrifices along their journey. They will have to give up things during the pursuit of success. I have now reached a point where I do everything that I want when I want and that gives me the greatest pleasure.
Why did you purchase a major stake in West Ham United? Is there a new stadium on the horizon? Do you think that you can manage the current debt at the club?
I played for West Ham when I was a boy and West Ham is really where it all started for me. It is like a dream come true. With David Sullivan and Karen Brady I believe we can help the club become successful. The club was close to administration and relegation when we took control and now, as I have said my dream is to win the FA Cup. We need the Olympic stadium to make the club a top six challenger and we are working towards that.
What is your advice for people that are starting out in business today?
Young people have an amazing opportunity to learn every day to gain experience and experience is what you need. No one should worry about having a lack of experience because you can learn every day, it just takes time and of course dedication.
I’ll give you an example. When I was younger I approached my bank manager for a loan and he turned me down. The second time I applied I got a little better but was still turned down, guess what happened on the fourth attempt – I got the money! All it takes is perseverance, determination and little bit of courage.
If you lost everything overnight, what would you do when you got up tomorrow?
Ask myself what went wrong, understand it, accept it and then I would want to get back into the race and if I had to I would start right back at the beginning. It’s hard for me to believe that I could fail now as it would take something really major. When businesses fail, it is not normally the business, it is the people. Pride can be a dangerous things, be cautious of it. If you are failing, face up to the fact, step back and change it and if the product isn’t going to work change it. So many entrepreneurs want their idea to work so badly that they can forget basic common sense rules. You lose your objectivity and realism. Use the experience, step back and re-evaluate it.
How important are employees in any business. Most people say that you should hire the best, but many startup companies cannot afford to do this – what’s your view?
They cannot afford not to! If you do not think that you can afford the right person and you follow through with that thought, it will cost you dearly. If the best person is going to cost you £40k and you can only afford £30k then offer a profit share, which, if you are all successful will take him to £50k. Share in the success or share in the failure, it’s your choice.
I like many entrepreneurs have struggled to become successful and I am either crazy and should just give up or I should keep going – did you every experience a time when you felt that you had nowhere to turn or wanted to give up and what or who helped you through?
Well I experienced that with my first bookshop. Bradley you know we have a great asset as entrepreneurs that many companies do not have. We can work 12 hours a day, we can put in time and massive amounts of energy. We can work Saturdays and Sundays and we can work for buttons 7 days a week. That’s the difference and what it takes to be successful.
At Raw Business we would like to build upon our “School for Entrepreneur Events” and create a real teaching school for entrepreneurs – do you think that it is a good idea?
Your school is a valid idea. As we both know not everybody will become successful but if you can deliver the teachings by people who have been in business, have the previous experience and have been successful you could as you say “reduce business failure rates”. Ex bank managers, retired accountants and other professional people could also be of great benefit to aspiring entrepreneurs. One piece of solid advice could change a business’s outcome. Alan Sugar suggests that you should be aggressive in business, but I don’t agree with that. You do not need to be aggressive to be successful you just have to have a mixture of determination, perseverance and little bit of courage.
You are 73 and are still an active and successful entrepreneur, is there an age limit for entrepreneurs?
About 20 years ago I used to buy products from a guy and he came to me one day and suggested that we invest in some new machinery. He said that if we both put in 100k the machine could speed up the manufacturing process and we would have our money back in two years – He was 92 years of age at the time. Sadly he didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of his investment but he was full of optimism and determination until the day he died.
David thank you for your time and for providing Raw readers with an awesome interview. I look forward to meeting with you again in the future. We all wish you every success with West Ham United FC and I hope that one day you lift the FA Cup.
Regards Bradley Chapman