His was a story of two very different lives. One was the poised, polished businesswoman who made the industry of trashy sex toys and kinky lingerie respectable, earning a fortune, and once drawing a knowing look from the late Queen, in the process.
The other was a young woman sexually abused in her teens by a stepfather whose brutality was ignored by her mother, something she kept secret for 25 years.
Both lives belonged to Jacqueline Gold, the retail genius behind the Ann Summers chain, whose death at 62 after a long battle with breast cancer was announced yesterday.
In a statement, his family said his passing had left them “completely heartbroken.” His death comes just weeks after that of his beloved father, football club boss David Gold, deputy chairman of Premier League West Ham, and the man whose trust in his daughter would transform the lives of both.
Sex was a family affair.
Jacqueline Gold, the retail genius behind the Ann Summers chain, died yesterday at the age of 62.
His was a story of two very different lives. One was the businesswoman who made the trashy sex toy and kinky lingerie industry respectable, the other was a young woman sexually abused as a teenager by her stepfather.
His father earned his money largely from the best magazines. His pornographic publishing empire included titles like Hardcore Housewives, Rustler, Butt Babes, and Derriere.
It was said that when Jacqueline was born she cried because she was not a child who could inherit the business.
Eventually, Jacqueline revolutionized it by taking Britain’s raunchiest troupe mainstream. In 1979, fresh out of school, she did some work experience at an Ann Summers store: her father had bought all four of her outlets after they went bankrupt a few years earlier. In those days they were the seedy destinations for men in dirty raincoats, a world away from the glitzy High Street emporiums they would become.
She was paid less than the tea lady at £45 a week when she had a flash of inspiration after spending a night at a Tupperware-style party.
“Some of the girls knew that I was working at Ann Summers,” she recalled. “They told me, ‘We want to buy sexy underwear and sex toys to spice up our marriages, but we don’t want to have to go to a sex shop.'”
It was a eureka moment. “I saw an opportunity to empower women, the exact opposite of what had happened to me as a child,” she said. At 21 and with a plan in mind, she pitched herself to her father’s board of directors, a group of men who ran a business entirely geared toward men. It was not easy. One of her directors threw her glasses on the table and said, ‘This is never going to work. Women are simply not interested in sex.
Ms Gold later recalled, “I thought, ‘That says more about your sex life than the real world.'”
The board, however, agreed and the rest is history.
From a handful of organizers, housewives who earned money on commission, it grew to 500 in a matter of months, and soon there were thousands.
Quite simply, it was the most successful party plan operation in the country, transporting sex from sex shops to living rooms from which men were barred.
The clever plan allowed Ann Summers to circumvent laws that prevented sex toys from being publicly displayed. She was determined to take it “from the raincoat brigade and make it a women’s institution.”
She became CEO of the company in 1987. In 2000, Ann Summers acquired the Knickerbox brand, which now has a concession in all stores.
Along the way, this purveyor of sex toys, daring underwear and vibrators was named a CBE in 2016 and introduced to the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace.
Jacqueline helped transform the brand and build 80 stores across the UK.
Jacqueline’s death comes just weeks after that of her beloved father, football club boss David Gold, deputy chairman of Premier League West Ham and the man whose trust in his daughter was to transform her life. from both.
In fact, the detail of that royal meeting in 2007 is worth repeating. “Everyone was very nice,” he said of the reception. ‘We talked about how I employ 10,000 people and that I’m based in Surrey. The queen said, “Where are you from?” She looked at my badge and said, “Oh, Ann Summers.”
“The twinkle in his eyes meant it was obvious he knew who I was.”
Of course, it may have been a coincidence that one of Mrs Gold’s most prominent clients was Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, who had thrown a highly publicized Ann Summers party at her mother’s Gatcombe Park estate. , Princess Anne, where 25 brides laughing. a waiter dressed only in a PVC thong served them smoked salmon and champagne.
Still, it’s tempting to wonder if the Queen knew that the woman she was having tea with that day ran a business built on the foundation of a family porn empire advertising ‘barely legal young sweet-spanker’. ‘in one of her magazine stalls.
Or that Mrs. Gold once used the image of the Queen in her Ann Summers sex shops to sell a Wild Guide to Sex, and Her Majesty apparently backed her up with the memorable words: ‘Phwoar, one must get one.’
If his shops (at one point there were almost 150 of them sprawling comfortably on the High Street) with their vibrating nipple clamps and chocolate body paint became synonymous with changing attitudes towards sex in Britain, one product represented that change more than ever. nothing: the Rampant Rabbit vibrator.
Thanks to a mention in Sex And The City, the rabbit became a top seller, racking up reported sales of more than two million a year for the company.
Gold claimed that her daring panties and sexual novelties have contributed more than £1.5bn to the British economy, a boast that impressed former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, who made her one of his celebrated supporters.
She also served on the Government Women’s Business Council.
The irony that she owed her wealth and career to a business built on the profits of one that degrades women instead of empowering them rarely appears in her books or interviews about her life.
Jacqueline’s sister Vanessa (left) with her father and brother.
Jacqueline Gold, then 49, and her husband Dan Cunningham, then 33, with the couple’s then-year-old daughter Scarlett, on their wedding day at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in 2010.
Not everything was smooth. When she opened a shop in Dublin she received a bullet in the post, she was arrested at a trade show for allegedly running an unlicensed sex shop and Jobcentres long refused to accept staff ads from her.
The petite, soft-spoken businesswoman and mother of one concealed an ambition based on tenacity and drive.
All the more remarkable considering the tragedy of his childhood.
She was 12 when her parents divorced and in her scathing memoir, Please Let It Stop, she recounted how her father had come home one day to find her mother having sex with the cleaner’s son in the pool.
As a child, she was terrified of her stepfather’s nocturnal visits and remembers being desperate to protect her younger sister, Vanessa.
“It started when I was 12 years old,” he said. “He was incredibly scary.” Her aunt knew about the abuse and she raised it with her mother but nothing was done.
‘When I was 15 I went to my doctor and told him what had happened. I said that I was worried about my sister.
‘The doctor told me ‘Do you want to send the social workers?’ Of course I said, ‘No, no,’ and that was the end of the conversation.’
She is convinced that her mother knew about the abuse but turned a blind eye. “She was a paradox: one minute she wouldn’t let me go out to play with other kids, but the next minute I think she knew what was going on. She was very insecure and this guy was very controlling.
Recalling visiting her mother years later, she said: “She was smiling, she was glad to see me, and I put my arms around her and she just stood there limply with her arms at her sides, like she didn’t know how. do it”. return the love.’
Ms. Gold worked to escape. “She was designing crossword puzzles at the age of 13 for 50 pence,” she said. ‘I got a job as a waitress. Earning money was a gateway to independence.
It’s a lesson she never forgot. At 16, she worked for the Royal Doulton tableware company before joining her father’s business. “I’ve had a lot of hardship in my life, more than most,” she once said.
But I don’t stop there. Either you are someone who spends your life blaming your bad luck or you pick yourself up. I am not a victim.’
She met her second husband, Dan Cunningham, who was 17 years her junior, in 2002, determined to start a family.
But after two failed IVF courses, they parted ways only to reconcile and undergo a successful third round of fertility treatment in the US.
Gold gave birth to twins Alfie and Scarlett in 2009 when she was 49 years old.
But there was more anguish. Alfie was born with a severe brain disability and died at eight months of age.
The couple later tied the knot in a lavish ceremony at Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Palace in 2010, with one-year-old daughter Scarlett by their side.
Of all Ms. Gold’s accomplishments, motherhood was considered her greatest.