Have you ever done a Ratner?

I just posted about ghost-blogging and looked up Gerald Ratner as a warning for all those agencies considering giving their clients blogs. Ratner became infamous in the UK when he described his own company’s jewellery produce as ‘total crap’. The result: half a billion pounds wiped off the company valuation and he was kicked out 18 months later.

However, I found a better link: turns out, there’s an actual phrase, ‘Doing a Ratner’ and this page contains a superb list of other execs who have also ‘Done a Ratner’. You can nip across to Wikipedia and read it but the list’s so good I reproduce it here:

  • In July 2001, David Shepherd, then brand director of the clothing chain Topman said in a trade journal “Menswear”, that his customers were hooligans and “Very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court case.”
  • In March 2002, Woolworths’ Gerald Corbett said, regarding Woolworths’ progress at his stores, that “Some city centre stores are vast open deserts with nobody there.”
  • In March 2003, EMI’s chief executive, Alain Levy said the company had cut the artist roster in Finland from 49 artists, as he did not think there were that many people in the country “who could sing”. The joke went down like a lead balloon over in Helsinki, with the managing director of EMI’s local subsidiary pointing out that the Finnish firm commanded a 20% share of the local market thanks to Finns who can sing
  • In October 2003, Matt Barrett, the chief executive of Barclays (owner of Barclaycard, one of Britain’s most popular credit cards) said on a parliamentary Treasury committee on credit cards, “I do not borrow on credit cards. I have four young children. I give them advice not to pile up debts on their credit cards.”
  • Anders Dahlvig, the chief executive of furniture store IKEA, said his stores were “appalling” on weekends.
  • Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall, bosses of football club Newcastle United, said Geordie women were “dogs” and mocked fans for purchasing £50 replica football shirts that cost the club £5.
  • In the United States, a Forest City Enterprises executive, developer Bruce Ratner, characterised his own Atlantic Center mall as “not something that we’re terribly proud of”. Additionally, in May, 2004, he memorably insulted customers who live near the same mall to a NY Times reporter: “here you’re in an urban area, you’re next to projects, you’ve got tough kids.”
  • On 3 June 2007 in an interview in the Financial Times, Nicholas Ferguson, chairman of private equity firm SVG Capital, said that capital gains tax rules mean that many private equity executives “pay less tax than a cleaning lady”. Media and political uproar ensued, and the asset class is now the subject of an ongoing investigation by a Treasury Select Committee into tax rules that see wealthy private equity executives pay 10% tax on carried interest, as opposed to the 40% income tax rate.

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