When Ben Gordon was parachuted into Mothercare in 2002 the maternity and babywear chain was in disarray: the shelves were empty, the brand damaged and the business was close to bankruptcy.
The subsequent turnaround by Gordon was, for many years, presented as a textbook example: this was the man, his spin doctors at Brunswick told us, who could sell sand to the Arabs (80,000 bags of the stuff, apparently for sandpits).
As an example of a UK retailer successfully expanding overseas, Gordon became a “celebrity” chief executive, a regular on the profile and party circuit. Analysts and the press were flown to far corners of the globe to see how Mothercare and Gordon were conquering the world – rolling out Mothercare franchise stores to more than 50 countries. Gordon was linked with a string of high-profile retail roles, including the chief executive’s job at Marks & Spencer.