AN infamous entrepreneur who rebuilt his career after causing the downfall of his firm believes he is an example of how business people can get back on their feet after a setback.

Gerald Ratner was the millionaire chief executive of Ratners Jewellery, which he built into the world’s largest jewellery retailer with 2,500 shops, making £125m a year, and with a £2bn turnover.

But after he made uncomplimentary remarks at an Institute of Directors (IoD) national conference in 1991 regarding product quality, the company suffered financial losses.

This week, Mr Ratner was the keynote speaker at the IoD North-East business leaders’ dinner.

After first moving into upmarket health clubs he has now relaunched his career in the jewellery sector as chief executive of geraldonline.

com And he believes his experience shows the value of perservering despite setbacks.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Ratner said: “I gave up for about seven years, I really didn’t do a thing, I didn’t want to play any more.

“I had taken such a bashing, you begin to believe what is written and what is said.

“When you are down people tend to write you off and the danger is, you believe it.”

Mr Ratner said that his “kick up the backside” came when his wife threatened to turn him out if he did not find a job.

When he eventually started a successful health club in the South-East in 1998 he realised that his business skills had not deserted him.

He said: “You don’t realise the things that get you there in the first place can work again for you and, if anything, you learn from your mistakes so you are probably even better qualified to get back up there.

“In the United States they sometimes regard people who have suffered setbacks more seriously.

“I wouldn’t wish my setback on anybody, but it can be good for you.”

Ironically it is Mr Ratners name that was now helping to draw business in for his online venture.

He said: “I tried to turn the negative into a positive.

“There are nine billion websites out there and the fact I am infamous has helped with the exposure. If my name was Fred Bloggs we wouldn’t have had any hits.

“It has worked for me in terms of cutting through the competition out there.”

Despite his downfall Mr Ratner believes he still retained the respect of his peers in the city. People in the know have still got respect for what I have done.”

At the dinner, held at the Raddison SAS hotel, in Durham City, the IoD North- East named Tony Earnshaw, 25, as the winner of its inaugural 30 under 30 Young Director of the Year award.

Mr Earnshaw, who won the backing of Duncan Bannatyne on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, developed a window cleaning round in Washington, Wearside, into UK Commercial Cleaning Services (UKCC), a £1.5m turnover business, employing 20 people, which is to be franchised across the UK.

Richard Elphick, IoD North-East chairman, said: “Those vying for the IoD North-East Young Director of the Year award prove that the region has a depth and breadth of go-ahead young directors involved in a wide variety of roles, all making a crucial contribution to the economic well-being of the North-East.”