Her story was one of two very different lives. One was the poised and polished businesswoman who made the filthy sex toy and kinky lingerie industry respectable, making herself a fortune – and once drawing a knowing look from the late Queen – in the process.
The other was a young girl who was sexually assaulted as a teenager by a stepfather whose brutality was ignored by her mother, something she kept a secret for 25 years.
Both lives belonged to Jacqueline Gold, the retail genius behind the Ann Summers chain, whose death at the age of 62 after a long battle with breast cancer was announced yesterday.
In a statement, her family said her passing had left them “heartbroken.” Her death comes just weeks after that of her beloved football club boss, father David Gold, joint chairman of Premier League West Ham, and the man whose faith in his daughter would change both their lives.
Sex was the family business.
Jacqueline Gold, the retail genius behind the Ann Summers chain, passed away yesterday at the age of 62
Her story was one of two very different lives. One was the businesswoman who made the sleazy sex toy and kinky lingerie industry respectable, the other was a young girl who was sexually abused by her stepfather as a teenager
Her father made most of his money from top-shelf magazines. His pornographic publishing empire included such titles as Hardcore Housewives, Rustler, Butt Babes, and Derriere.
It was said that when Jacqueline was born, he cried because she wasn’t a boy to inherit the business.
Ultimately, Jacqueline revolutionized Britain’s raunchiest company into the mainstream. In 1979, fresh out of school, she gained work experience in an Ann Summers store – her father had bought the four stores after they went bankrupt a few years earlier. Back then, they were the seedy destinations for men in dirty raincoats, a world away from the glitzy High Street empires they would become.
She was paid less than the Tea Lady at £45 a week when she had a flash of inspiration after spending an evening at a Tupperware-esque party.
“Some of the girls there knew I worked at Ann Summers,” she recalls. “They told me, ‘We want to buy sexy underwear and sex toys to spice up our marriage, but we don’t want 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 the age of 21 and with a plan in mind, she made her pitch to her father’s board of directors, a group of men who run a company entirely focused on men. It was not easy. One of the directors threw his glasses on the table and told her, “This is never going to work. Women are just not interested in sex.’
Mrs. Gold later recalled, “I thought, ‘That says more about your sex life than it does about the real world.'”
However, the board agreed and the rest is history.
From a handful of organizers—housewives who make money on commission—she reached 500 within months, and soon there were thousands.
It was quite simply the most successful party plan operation in the country, transporting sex from sex shops to living rooms from which men were banned.
The clever plan allowed Ann Summers to get around laws that prevented sex toys from being displayed in public. She was determined to take it away “from the raincoat brigade and make it a women’s institute.”
She became CEO of the company in 1987. In 2000, Ann Summers acquired the Knickerbox brand, which now has concessions in every store.
Along the way, this purveyor of sex toys, bondage gear, racy 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 football club boss, father David Gold, joint chairman of Premier League West Ham, and the man whose faith in his daughter would change both their lives.
Indeed, the details of that 2007 royal meeting are worth repeating. “Everyone was very nice,” she said of the reception. ‘We talked about me employing 10,000 people and living in Surrey. The Queen said, “Where are you from?” She looked at my badge and said, “Oh Ann Summers.”
“The twinkle in her eye meant it was clear she knew who I was.”
It may, of course, have been a coincidence that one of Mrs Gold’s most high-profile clients had been Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, who had thrown a highly publicized Ann Summers party at her mother Princess Anne’s estate in Gatcombe Park, where 25 giggling girlfriends were served smoked salmon and champagne by a waiter dressed only in a PVC G-string.
Still, it’s tempting to wonder if the Queen knew that the woman she had tea with that day ran a business built on the back of a family-owned porn empire that advertised “barely legal young sweet p* ***’. in one of his stable of magazines.
Or that Mrs. Gold had once used the image of the Queen in her Ann Summers sex shops to sell a Wild Guide to Sex, Her Majesty apparently endorsing it with the memorably words, “Phwoar, one must get one.”
If her shops – at one point nearly 150 popped up cosily on the High Street – with their vibrating nipple clamps and chocolate body paint became synonymous with Britain’s changing attitudes to sex, one product more than represented that change. whatever – the rampant rabbit vibrator.
Thanks to a mention in Sex And The City, the rabbit became a huge seller, with reported sales of more than two million a year for the company.
Ms Gold claimed her naughty knickers and sex novelties contributed more than £1.5bn to the UK economy, a boast that impressed former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron – who made her one of his celebrities.
She was also a member of the government’s Women’s Business Council.
The irony that she owed her wealth and her career to a company built on the profits of a company that degrades women rather than empowers them rarely appears in her books or interviews about her life.
Jacqueline’s sister Vanessa (left) with her father and sibling
Jacqueline Gold, then 49, and 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
READ MORE HERE: -‘She was a pioneer and the most incredible woman’: Jacqueline Gold’s sister and Ann Summers’ successor pays tribute to the ‘absolute warrior’ who died at age 62 after battling breast cancer – just weeks after the death of her father, West Ham owner David Goud
It didn’t all go smoothly. When she opened a shop in Dublin she got a bullet in the mail, she was arrested on a stock exchange for allegedly running a sex shop without a license and Jobcentres refused to accept her job advertisements for a long time.
The petite and gentle entrepreneur, a mother of a child, hid an ambition based on tenacity and drive.
All the more remarkable given the tragedy of her childhood.
She was 12 when her parents divorced, and in her searing memoir, Please Let It Stop, she recounted how her father came home one day to find her mother having sex with the cleaner’s son in the pool.
As a young girl, she was terrified of her stepfather’s late-night visits and remembers being desperate to protect her younger sister, Vanessa.
“It started when I was 12,” she said. “It was incredibly frightening.” Her aunt knew about the abuse and brought it up with her mother, but nothing was done about it.
“When I was 15, I went to my doctor and told her what had happened. I said I was worried about my sister.
“The doctor said to me, ‘Would you like to send the social workers around?’ Of course I said, “No, no,” and that ended the conversation.”
She is convinced that her mother knew about the abuse, but turns a blind eye. “She was a paradox—one minute she wouldn’t let me play with other kids, but the next minute I believe she knew what was going on. She was very insecure and this man was very controlling.”
When she remembered visiting her mother years later, she said, “She’d smile, happy to see me, and I’d put my arms around her and she’d stand there limp, arms beside her, like she didn’t know how she had to do that. return love.’
Mrs. Gold worked to escape. “I designed crossword puzzles when I was 13 for 50 pence,” she said. ‘I have a job as a waitress. Making money was a gateway to independence.’
It’s a lesson she never forgot. At the age of 16, she worked for the Royal Doulton tableware company before joining her father’s company. “I’ve had a lot of adversity in my life — more than most,” she once said.
‘But I don’t stop. You are either someone who blames your bad luck all your life, or you pick yourself up. I’m 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 cycles, they parted ways to reconcile and undergo a third successful fertility treatment in the US.
Ms Gold gave birth to twins Alfie and Scarlett in 2009 when she was 49.
But there was more heartache. Alfie was born with a severe brain defect and died when she was just eight months old.
The couple later married in a lavish ceremony at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in 2010, with their one-year-old daughter Scarlett at their side.
Of all Mrs. Gold’s accomplishments, she considered motherhood to be her greatest.