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Ann Summers boss, who transformed sex shops in the UK, dead at 62

The late Jacqueline Gold holds underwear at one of her Ann Summers stores - FILE
The late Jacqueline Gold holds underwear at one of her Ann Summers stores - FILE Copyright ASSOCIATED PRESS
Copyright ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold helped make lingerie and sex toys a female-friendly mainstream business after taking inspiration from Tupperware parties in the 1980s

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Jacqueline Gold, the mastermind of sex emporium Ann Summers died last week, leaving a legacy of female sexual empowerment among women across the UK.

Gold, 62, died after undergoing breast cancer treatment for seven years.

Her death was announced in a statement on Friday saying, "It is with unspeakable sadness that Ann Summers confirm our amazing executive chair Jacqueline Gold CBE passed away yesterday evening with her husband Dan, daughter Scarlett, sister Vanessa, and brother-in-law Nick, by her side". Vanessa added that her sister had been, “an absolute warrior throughout her cancer journey”.

Jacqueline Gold’s death comes just two months after that of her 86-year-old father, David, a tycoon and co-chairman of West Ham football club. 

David Gold bought the Ann Summers business with his brother Ralph in 1972, transforming it from a small collection of standard sex shops to a nationwide high street phenomenon.

Yui Mok/AP
Jacqueline Gold, centre, poses with models as she attends the relaunch of the Ann Summers Oxford Street store in central London, June 9, 2008.Yui Mok/AP

But it was Jacqueline who is widely credited for transforming the business and taking it from the back streets to the high street and making it much more female friendly.

She joined the company in the late ‘70s and in 1981, after a visit to a Tupperware party, saw the potential of selling lingerie and sex toys to women in the privacy of their own homes, circumventing regulations restricting the display of sex toys in public settings. 

The ‘no men allowed’ policy at the parties saw their popularity skyrocket with women free to speak about sex and desires, after years of repression and patriarchal criticism about female sexual freedom. At the parties’ peak, Ann Summers employed over 7,500 female organisers who hosted the lively events.

Gold went on to be made a director and was appointed as the CEO of Ann Summers in 1987, turning it into a multi-million pound business.

She had consistently appeared on rich lists, with The Sunday Times putting her net worth at £470 million (approximately €537 million) in 2019, making her the 16th richest woman in the UK.

While the store has closed several branches due to the slow death of the British high street, it still has 81 shops across the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Gold was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in the 2016 New Year Honours for her services to women in business, social enterprise and entrepreneurship. She is succeeded as CEO by her sister Vanessa.

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