By Nick Edser
Jacqueline Gold, who transformed the lingerie and sex toy chain Ann Summers and was a champion of women in business, has died aged 62.
Her family said she died on Thursday evening after seven years of treatment for breast cancer.
Ms Gold expanded Ann Summers from a firm with four backstreet shops into a multi-million pound business.
She was made a CBE in 2016 for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise.
Ms Gold’s family said: “It is with unspeakable sadness that Ann Summers confirm our amazing executive chair Jacqueline Gold CBE passed away yesterday evening with her husband Dan, daughter Scarlett, sister Vanessa, and brother-in-law Nick, by her side.
“She was… an activist for women in business, and championed female entrepreneurs with the ambition to better the working environment for women,” the statement added.
Her sister Vanessa, who is chief executive at Ann Summers, said: “She was a trailblazer, a visionary, and the most incredible woman, all of which makes this news that much harder to bear.”
The first Ann Summers shop opened in 1971, and the business was bought by Ms Gold’s father and his brother Ralph the following year.
Ms Gold first joined her family’s firm as an intern, but transformed the Ann Summers brand by making it more female-friendly.
But she told the BBC in 2015 that when she first proposed this approach to the company’s all-male directors it wasn’t well received.
“One board member threw down his pen and said ‘this isn’t going to work, women aren’t interested in sex’,” she said.
She set up a new Tupperware-style party service solely for women, which proved an immediate hit.
The increase in sales that her approach generated led to expansion of Ann Summers’ High Street stores. It currently has 88 across the UK and Ireland.
The revamped stores were brightly lit and again targeted at women, with the aim of distinguishing them from the traditional image of backstreet sex shops.
She told the BBC: “When I joined Ann Summers its customer profile was only 10% women, today it remains 100% women going to our parties, and 80% women to our stores.
“I always say that I have taken the company from the raincoat brigade to a female institution.”
As well as running the business, Ms Gold mentored other female entrepreneurs and lobbied the government to help improve gender equality in business.
Speaking to the Sunday Times in 2018, she said there were very few female role models, adding that she found it “disappointing” that the situation had not changed.
“I am frustrated that we are still having the same conversation around female empowerment and equality,” she told the paper. “We live in a fast-paced society and yet progress is painfully slow.“