No one could accuse David Gold of having had it easy. Like many of today’s household-name entrepreneurs, he earned what he has through hard work and determination. Where Gold’s story differs from most is in the sheer magnitude of adversity he overcame to get where he is today.
Gold is on record as describing the driving force of his success as “fear of going back”. He once described a recurring nightmare that plagued him for many years. In the dream he would be driving his Bentley car, but instead of arriving at his luxury home, or his office, he would arrive at work on a building site with no money and just a bag of tools in the back of the car. Not a particularly bad dream for many in these days when any employment is better than none, but for David Gold the building site is symbolic of a bitter episode in his early life.
The young David was a keen football fan and youth footballer. Imagine, then, the delight and excitement he felt when, at 15 years of age, he was offered an apprenticeship with West Ham United, the team he supported. Now imagine the anguish that followed when his father refused to sign the forms, insisting that David should complete a bricklaying apprenticeship instead.
That was just one of the disappointments David experienced in the course of his relationship with his father – a relationship that can be described as difficult at best. Not surprising, then, that dreams of building sites and poverty should be one legacy of his formative years.
Gold’s motivating fear of returning to hardship has certainly been channelled into positive and tangible achievements. From the poverty of London’s East End, David Gold has transported himself into a lavish lifestyle funded by an impressive business empire. His mansion – and that is surely the only word for an opulent house with 14 toilets – is attended by a 55-acre garden and golf course. He owns luxury cars, aircraft, several businesses and a football team.
David Gold’s business interests have been many and varied, although much has been made by the media of his association with adult entertainment. His first enterprise was a modest one. He took on a small, many times failed, bookstore off Charing Cross Road when he was 21 years old. David soon noticed that the racier publications not only sold well, but that people would pay more for them.
Since then he has published adult magazines and started the Sunday Sport newspaper. He also acquired the Ann Summers chain, of which he is Chairman, his daughters Jacqueline and Vanessa are Chief Executive and Deputy Managing Director, respectively. He is also Chairman and major shareholder of Birmingham City Football Club.
When Regtransfers.co.uk visited David at his home, our team paused for a few moments to try to take in the house and its setting. The place, especially that golf course, must take some maintaining.
“You know it’s not overly difficult,” says David. “The guys will mow the fairways in a day. The greens take about three hours and the rest of the time is just all the titivating. The bulk of what looks difficult actually isn’t. They do it quite quickly.”
Despite the constant maintenance that keeps the course in perfect condition, David doesn’t spend all his time playing golf.
“I think I’ve played only half a dozen times this year; but it does get busy sometimes, because the company has a golf day here and Birmingham City staff come down for a Corporate day. I have some friends down for a few rounds, plus a number of charity golf events. Despite all of this it doesn’t get used as much as it should.”
David has lived in the house since 1995.
He bought it three years before that but considerable renovation was needed before he felt ready to move in.
“The architect – the first architect, who only lasted one day – stood up on the bank there with me and he said ‘We’ll pull it down and we’ll rebuild it higher up the hill’. But of course, I didn’t want to do that. I was desperate to renovate it as it was. I just wanted to bring it back to its original state, as it would have been in 1850.”
David was determined that the restoration should be as faithful as possible to the period in which the house was originally built. He seems satisfied with the result, particularly with the discreet way that non-19th century features can be tucked away from view.
“All the televisions in the house are hidden either inside antiques, or in copies of antique furnishings. Even the replacement for the fireplace we couldn’t save is period. We got it from Paris, from a house that was also built in 1850, so it’s a French Victorian fireplace. The chandeliers are copies of the chandeliers of the time. All the shutters have been restored to their original state.
When the time comes to leave the house and get down to business, David Gold is spoilt for choice as far as transport is concerned.