The Business On... Gerald Ronson, Property tycoon

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A would-be petrol pump mogul, we hear?

He already is. Mr Ronson is these days best known for other reasons, but one of his earliest business successes was Heron Service Stations, which really shook up the way motorists bought petrol. He introduced the ideas of self-service and shops on the forecourt. The business is still going, though it now trades as Snax 24, and it is one of the front runners to buy 475 petrol stations off Murco.

Doesn't he want to take life alittle easier these days?

Apparently not – and he's only 71. Mr Ronson is still very much at the helm of his property empire – the Heron Tower in the City is the latest project to have been completed – though his daughter, Lisa, has an active role in the business too.

So what drives him?

He's been in business since childhood, when he joined his dad's furniture business (the original Heron). His first property investments were residential, but he soon got into commercial property, both in the UK and internationally. He's just kept going, despite some setbacks. These days, Heron's annual lunch is a fixture in the property sector's calendar. At the latest do, last month, Mr Ronson warned that the climate was tough, though he expects to fill Heron Tower within 18 months.

You mentioned some setbacks?

Well, Heron almost went underduring the Nineties, having taken on too much debt, so that wasn't much fun. And then there was the Guinness affair. One of the "Guinness Four", Mr Ronson went to prison for six months in 1990 after being convicted over the share-dealing scandal.

Is he repentant these days?

Not really – because he doesn't believe he was fairly convicted. Mr Ronson continues to protest hisinnocence and insists that the then Department of Trade and Industry illicitly colluded with the prosecutors. Nor does he think much of Judge Denis Henry, who presided over his trial. In his autobiography, he accuses Judge Henry of "not caring less that our rights as British subjects were being violated".