David Gold, who has died at the age of 86 after a short illness, had West Ham in his heart throughout his life. When Gold was a boy he did not have to look far for his boyhood club. West Ham’s former co-owner grew up at 442 Green Street, in a house directly opposite Upton Park, and there was never any chance of him becoming anything other than a lifelong Hammer.
Gold, whose death was announced by the Premier League club on Wednesday, loved West Ham. He was a promising schoolboy footballer who represented represented the club’s boys’ team between the ages of 13 and 16 and later appeared in the youth team. Football was in his blood. He did not make it as a professional, but he would find a way to return to the game after forging a successful business career.
It was a hard road. Gold recalled growing up in “abject poverty” and said his family had no money. He started work aged 14 in an attempt to make ends meet. Gold and his brother, Ralph, would later own Gold Group International, the parent company of Knickerbox and the Ann Summers chain of adult stores. In 1986 the Gold brothers helped David Sullivan launch the downmarket Sunday Sport newspaper.
Sullivan’s partnership with Gold grew. In 1993 they entered the world of football with the purchase of Birmingham City, who would win promotion to the Premier League nine years later. Karren Brady was appointed as the Midlands club’s managing director, making her the first woman on the board of a Football League team.
A fruitful relationship was born. Sullivan, Gold and Brady left Birmingham in 2009 and turned up at West Ham in January 2010. It was a challenging time. West Ham’s Icelandic owners had left the club in huge financial trouble and relegation from the top flight was on the cards. As West Ham said in their statement yesterday, Gold was partly responsible for helping “to steady the ship and protect the Club’s future during a period of great financial uncertainty”.
It was not always easy. West Ham were relegated in 2011 and won promotion a year later. At times supporters have hit out at Sullivan and Gold, accusing the pair of a lack of investment in the club. However people who know Gold, who was part of the drive to take the east London club from Upton Park to the London Stadium in 2016, always spoke of his passion for West Ham.
“On behalf of everyone at the football club, it is with profound sorrow and a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of our colleague and friend, David Gold,” Sullivan said of his old friend yesterday.
“Of all our joint ventures, none gave us more pride and happiness than the day we took ownership of West Ham United, our Club, in January 2010. David had a long-standing connection with the Hammers, having grown up opposite the Boleyn Ground in Green Street, and represented the Club at junior level. He always wanted what was best for West Ham United, and his passing is a great loss for all of us.”
Gold, who was proud of his Jewish heritage, was a popular figure. He was a regular presence at West Ham’s training ground and was described by many people as a kind and generous man.
“I am extremely sad to hear this news and, on behalf of all of the players and my staff at the training ground, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to David Gold’s family at this very difficult time,” West Ham’s manager, David Moyes said. “Mr Gold was a regular visitor to Rush Green and always a source of great support and encouragement to myself and the players.
“It was clear that he had a genuine and sincere love for the Club and was a true supporter at heart. He took a great interest in the people working behind the scenes and was always keen to help in any way he could. He will be greatly missed.”
It is anticipated that Gold’s 25% stake in the club will pass to his daughters, Vanessa and Jacqueline, and that the family will continue to have a presence on the board. Sullivan is the club’s largest shareholder with a stake of 38.8%. The Czech billionaire, Daniel Kretinsky, is an increasingly influential voice after buying a 27% stake in November 2021.
West Ham added that Gold’s daughters and his fiancee, Lesley, were by his side when he passed away.