Ronson: drop ‘negativity of envy’

The government must prioritise infrastructure investment, national newspapers editors should stop being hypocritical and regulators should quit a “self-destructive road of blame and retributive justice”, according to Heron chief executive Gerald Ronson.

In a forthright and often angry speech to 350 business leaders at today’s annual Heron lunch, Ronson called for “the national dialogue to step up in quality and impact”.

He said: “In the US, when Tim Cook took over as Apple’s chief executive from the late Steve Jobs, the welcome package he received is today worth around $500m in tranches up to 2021.

“Here in the UK, Stephen Hester was hired to sort out a troubled bank and to try to restore value for the British taxpayer – his package was agreed at the outset, effectively signed off by both political parties, and a couple of months ago, when his £1m bonus was announced, the lynch mob attacked him and the rest is history.

“The issue is, we need top people to sort out the mess – if we are not careful, they won’t be around to do it.”

He accused newspaper editors of running front pages that called for the heads of greedy bankers while themselves taking salaries of “over 20 times that of the average worker or over 15 times that of the prime minister whilst presiding over falling circulations and multi-million pound losses.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people earning as much money as they are worth but the hypocrisy that exists is quite disgusting.”

Pointing to the Budget increase in stamp duty to 7%, he said: “If we create a tax regime that punishes success, this will kill aspirations to succeed.” And he added: “Cutting-edge road and rail infrastructure are not nice-to-haves; these are not even remotely optional extras, they are, simply, what happens in places that lead.”

As well as attracting American, Chinese, Russian and Swiss companies to the Heron Tower, Ronson said The Peak in Victoria, SW1, was nearly fully let, while his residential tower, The Heron, was more than 70% sold ahead of completion in 2013.