Ann Summers chairman David Gold’s run in with gangsters [Video]

David Gold talks about when his business was threatened by gangsters

As a young businessman in the East End in the 1960’s, David Gold occasionally had to deal with the notorious criminal element of the area, with the Krays and Richardson gang both infamous household names.

And as the Ann Summers chairman explains to Startups in this video, whilst “it’s not as if they were in your life every day”, the criminal gangs provided a constant fearful undercurrent for any businessman in the area. “You’re running your business with a degree of fear,” recalls Gold. “But then again I’ve been brought up with fear – in the early days as a 9 year old boy working on the stall outside my house.”

In particular, David Gold and his brother Ralph came into direct contact with George Cornell on one occasion, a member of the notorious Richardson gang. “You think it’s not going to happen to you – all the stories you are hearing are happening to other people and you think that you’re OK,” recalls the successful entrepreneur. “Of course, one day, you do get the call and it’s a gangster saying that if we don’t pay money then something terrible is going to happen to your business.”

Gold recalls his terror and worry the day Cornell threatened his business. “Cornell was a violent criminal, and of course when you’re in contact with such a man who is threatening you with innuendos about what might happen to your business or – worse still – what might happen to your family, if you don’t pay a certain amount of money, that evening you’re thinking about the very worst that could happen,” he says.

Gold’s worries were spared in a stroke of gruesome good fortune, however, as the following evening Cornell was murdered in front of a crowd of onlookers in the Blind Beggars pub in Whitechapel by well-known gangster Reginald Kray.

However, this news did not assuage Gold straight away, as upon hearing the radio news report of the death, so soon after he himself was threatened, he jumped to his own conclusion. “I’m thinking, ‘my father’s killed him’!” he recalls. “I’d seen my father stand up to bullies in the past down the market… I thought that was what has happened here. So for about three hours I thought my father had killed him.”

Gold believes his experience with Cornell provides a lesson to entrepreneurs even today. “One of the qualities that I think is needed in a dynamic young entrepreneur is he has to be courageous,” explains Gold. “He has to be brave – whether it’s because he’s gambling his assets, or his home – some people gamble with their lives, in a sense.”

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