Well, it was certainly a day to remember when I met the great man Gerald Ronson - who is known as much for his hairdryer treatment (he doesn’t suffer fools) as he is for his legendary entrepreneurial prowess. Luckily for me he was perfectly charming, and it was fascinating listening to him chat about his passion for petrol retailing, and his great early days in the business, when he stuck two fingers up at the major oil companies and transformed petrol stations forever.
They must have been great days to witness, not just for the contrast between his sites and the rest - the queues, the swanky shops, the promotion girls and the flags - but to have a controversial character cutting a swathe through the stuffy politics and stranglehold the oil majors had at the time. He has certainly packed a great deal into his life - and he’s by no means done yet - and you have to admire him for his great energy, drive and capacity for work.
He built nearly 1,000 service stations, set in motion numerous initiatives, while focusing attention on the smallest details - his mantra is retail is detail. Yet he is also a renowned property magnate, mixing it with the great and the good around the world, as well as a philanthropist extraordinaire, having raised over £100m for charities. It’s when he calls his petrol retailing business his Saturday job, that you begin to wonder if he might not be human... Anyway the book is a great read, and all profits are being donated to the Gerald Ronson Charitable Foundation.
Back to mere mortals, and I have to say that Jonathan James must have huge teeth marks on the inside of his lips as he struggles not to say what he really must be thinking about the third Budgens store that appeared in his town (page 4) - bought by his ’retail partners’.
A rather clumsy state of affairs by the sound of things. And now the committed Budgens retailer has felt forced to move two of his stores to Spar. Touché.