Although widely regarded as "tacky," the UK-based Ratners chain of jewelry stores shops was nevertheless extremely popular with the British public. That was until Chairman Gerald Ratner’s now famous speech at the UK Institute of Directors in April 1991. During which, Gerry muttered this now-famous phrase:
“We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95.
People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?"
I say, because it’s total crap."
Not content with that remark, he went on to say that some of the earrings were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long."
The speech was instantly seized upon by the media leading to an estimated loss of £500m ($1bn) being wiped from the value of the company. Hardly surprisingly, Mr. Ratner, was given the boot some 18 months later, and in 1994 the Ratner name was expunged from the company, which has since been renamed Signet Group.
Even today, Ratner’s gaffe is still famous in the British Retail industry as an example on the value of branding and image over quality. Such gaffes are now sometimes called "Doing a Ratner," and Ratner himself has acquired the sobriquet "The Sultan of Bling."
Ratner has said in his defense that it was a private function which he did not expect to be reported, and his remarks were not made seriously.