David Gold: How the late West Ham chief rose from 'abject poverty' to the Premier League boardroom

David Gold rose from what he himself described as “abject poverty” to become a hugely successful businessman and the joint chairman of West Ham, the club he supported and represented as a boy.

Gold was born prematurely on September 9, 1936 in Stepney, east London, weighing less than four pounds. 

After the family home on Hampton Road was rendered uninhabitable by German bombs during World War Two, Gold moved to 442 Green Street, across the road from the Hammers' old home the Boleyn Ground, where he lived with his mother Rose, his brother Ralph and his sister Marie.

Gold described his father Godfrey, or Goddy, as a "fleeting figure" in his life, who spent most of his time away from the family home working as a travelling salesman, womanising or in prison. In later life there was further acrimony between Gold and his father over business dealings.

As a child Gold also suffered at the hands of other men in his family, recounting in his autobiography that his mother's stepbrother Johnny Cenci physically and sexually abused him and his brother while his father was in prison.

The young Gold's earliest move into business was to sell buttons and other items outside the family home to help make ends meet.

He was selected to play for West Ham boys after breaking into his school team early in his teens.

"Sport turned our lives around - Ralph with his boxing and me with my football," Gold wrote in his autobiography.

"Until then the only thing we had been successful at was surviving."

He moved on from selling buttons in the front yard to science fiction books from a Charing Cross kiosk. Gold went on to buy the freeholds for four empty shops and discovered that, in 1950s Britain, pornographic literature was a bigger seller than science fiction.

One of his first big deals was to sell two of those four properties for £2,999,999 - after the purchasers had vowed never to pay £3million for them.

Gold married Beryl Hunt in 1957, with whom he had his children Jacqueline and Vanessa. They later divorced, with Beryl dying of cancer in 2003.

By 1972 business was booming. He went into partnership with David Sullivan in the adult magazine publication business, and launched Sport Newspapers.

In that same year Gold bought the four struggling Ann Summers sex shops. Over the years that followed, Gold and his daughter Jacqueline transformed the brand's fortunes, helping make it more appealing to women and it became a regular feature on the British high street.

His love for football, and for West Ham, was rekindled in 1991 when he, brother Ralph and Sullivan bought a 29.9 per cent stake in the club, but they sold out two years later, with Gold saying they had "no contact" from the board.

"It was hugely frustrating and disappointing because we had so much to offer," he wrote in his autobiography.

The trio would go on to buy Birmingham in 1993, a club Gold felt an affinity for after being evacuated to a family of Bluenoses living in Doncaster during the Second World War.

Gold admitted Birmingham were a club in decay when they bought them, a world away from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League which had just got started.

The Blues overcame relegation to the third tier to stabilise in the Championship, reaching the League Cup final in 2001 before securing promotion to the Premier League a year later.

Gold sold his shares in Birmingham in 2009 and, by January 2010, had become joint chairman of West Ham.

His Hammers reunion was far from plain sailing, with Gold and Sullivan criticised over the decision to move the Hammers out of Upton Park to the London Stadium, and over a perceived lack of investment in the team.

But the club have enjoyed great success over recent times and finished sixth in 2021 to secure a place in the Europa League under David Moyes.

Gold died on Wednesday aged 86 and is survived by his fiancee Lesley and his two daughters.

READ MORE: West Ham joint chairman David Gold dies aged 86 after a 'short illness'

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