Ratner returns as GeraldOnline and promises to cut the crap

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The Independent Online

Gerald Ratner, the jeweller who committed the most famous gaffe in corporate history by describing one of his products as "total crap" will today finally launch his online venture after settling a legal spat with his former company.

Mr Ratner first attempted to launch an online jewellery retailer called RatnerOnline last year, and planned to raise £4m. But his ambitions were thwarted by the Signet group, the company forged out of the former Ratner jewellery empire, which barred him from using the Ratner trademark. He has now renamed his online company GeraldOnline, ending the dispute.

Mr Ratner was forced out of Ratners in 1992 - a year after he made his fateful remarks at the Institute of Directors annual convention. Mr Ratner described his cut-glass sherry decanter sets as "total crap" and said the earrings he sold were cheaper than a prawn sandwich but would not last as long.

Mr Ratner has secured backing for his new online venture from an Indian diamond company SB&T. "We have been working on this business for quite some time and we have had a few pitfalls along the way. It has been a very frustrating year," Mr Ratner said yesterday.

"The name wasn't our first choice. But we now have very secure financing to get the company up and running and I know it will work as we have the right products. We can sell a one carat diamond for £1,500, which is less than half what it is available at on the high street."

SB&T has made an initial investment of more than £1m to get the company off the ground and around 25 per cent of the site's jewellery products will be sourced from the Indian plant. Mr Ratner will be a 40 per cent shareholder in the company, with SB&T taking up the remaining 60 per cent share.

The site will sell up to 700 products, mainly watches at the outset, to the upper end of the mass market. Mr Ratner has also secured a servicing agreement with the high street jeweller, Goldsmith. It will provide all order taking, invoicing and despatching of goods to GeraldOnline customers. It will also provide a returns services where customers can take GeraldOnline goods back to Goldsmiths' stores for refunds, repairs and adjustments.

GeraldOnline will be live in September, to capitalise on the pre-Christmas trading season.

HOW JOKING JEWELLER BECAME PRAWN IN THE GAME

"We sell a pair of earrings for under £1 - which is cheaper than a prawn sandwich from Marks & Spencer but, I have to say, the earrings probably won't last as long. We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say how can you sell this for such a low price? I say because it is total crap." - Gerald Ratner, in a speech to the Institute of Directors in April 1991

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