The Billion Dollar Speech that Sank a Major Company


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Ratner was the CEO of the Ratners Group, jewellers that shook up the usually stiff and inflexible jewellery market by aiming some of its products at the working class through a chain of shops colloquially known as “Ratners.” Although the chain was widely ridiculed and considered “gaudy,” “tacky” and “cheap” by the press and other jewellers, many wanting to buy jewellery and not break the bank flocked to the stores, turning Ratners into a household name throughout England in the 1980s.

Want the text version?

The Speech That Cost Nearly a Billion Dollars

Resources/Further Reading:


The man who destroyed his multimillion dollar company in 10 seconds


Image Credit (Thank you)



Gerald Ratner to launch online store in India



Date: December 4, 2019

21 thoughts on “The Billion Dollar Speech that Sank a Major Company

  1. People talking about iPhones; Ok, so I just did a little research. The materials used to make the iPhone X cost $370, the phone is then sold for $999(169.82% markup). The XS cost $390 to produce, it is then sold for $1099 (181.79% markup). Atleast, that's what we're told…

  2. Ratner's comments were a disaster, but people drew the wrong lesson, which was that all jewellery is crap compared to the prices charged. Anyone who has tried to sell jewellery knows the real value is a small fraction of what they paid for it.

  3. I think what people may be missing here is that the effect wasn’t caused only by what he said, but how it was spun by the tabloid press. And since his company was an upstart taking much business from the jewelry oligarchy, there were plenty of rich business types and in-the-pocket politicians willing to give quotes on how “disgraceful” it was and how Ratner insulted “the great British public”. People talk today about how the media are corporate shills – but they’ve been that way since forever.

  4. Economic Reality is the least reliable, long lasting delusion the species can't shake.
    Tolerance for extravagance is a slippery slope, tolerance for failed belief's desperate demands to feel proud … you're probably falling.

  5. The more jewelry you have and the amount it cost is directly correlated to your intelligence level. If you have none you're a genius, If you have over $10 you're starting to get pretty damn dumb.

  6. The way they treated him is so wrong! I mean the people who heard him laughed which means they understand that he is joking. But it somehow made everyone think he was serious?? This is the reason I think Stock market is nonsense and a scam. It makes no sense. People deliberately took a joke seriously and nearly destroyed a company!! Couldn't they have just verified the product? Did another media junket where the products are tested?
    This is an example of humans being utterly stupid and destroying others. This guy loses reputation and job but someone like Madoff gets to do his thing for decades! Absolutely horrid! And look the company is still the largest in its industry making billions! Stock market is such lies …

  7. I remember when the CEO of EA Software said, in an interview in NextGen magazine, that people that buy his yearly sports games are idiots. I took his advice and I've never bought an EA game since.

  8. What happened is he made a couple of off-hand jokes about two products that were ludicrously low in price for what they were. Honest, yes. Naive, probably. Ill-advised, definitely. He never insulted his customers and the speech in which those comments were made was actually a very good business speech – it's on YouTube in full. The comments come across completely differently in context.

    The furore that followed was the result of the tabloid press picking up the story and blowing it up beyond exaggeration. What you have to remember is that when this happened in 1991, the UK was in a horrendous recession with interest rates at 15%, meaning many people losing their jobs and being unable to pay their mortgage. A very rich and successful businessman who was one of the poster boys for 80's capitalist success was the perfect scapegoat for the media at the time who wanted to align with the average person's cynicism about business and the rich.

    Unfortunately for Gerald Ratner, he put his foot in it at exactly the right time and a journalist was there to witness it.

    In many ways, while he should have known better than to crack those jokes in public, he was victimised by the media and the backlash against Ratners was ridiculous. Witness the crap that people spend their money on today as an example of how the whole situation was the result of the media manipulating ordinary people into doing their bidding – bringing down a massively successful company to create a drama and thus, sell newspapers.

    It must also be remembered that many people apart from Ratner himself lost their livelihoods.


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