Rachman, Peter

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RACHMAN, PETER (c. 1920–1962), British property tycoon and racketeer. He was born Perec Rachman in Lvov, Poland, the son of a dentist. His parents perished in the Holocaust and he survived the war as a slave laborer, migrating to Britain around 1946. After working as a dishwasher, in the 1950s Rachman built up a property empire in London by methods which later made him nationally notorious. Due to the war, there had been an extreme housing shortage in London. Resident tenants were protected by rent control, but the owner of a property was free to raise rents to their market level once the previous occupant had vacated a building. Rachman hired thugs, mainly recent West Indian migrants, to intimidate tenants, often elderly, into leaving, using threats and other unacceptable tactics. It is believed that Rachman was one of the main progenitors of the race riots in Notting Hill and elsewhere in west London in the late 1950s. Rachman dealt almost exclusively in cash, operating from no fixed premises, which made him immune from prosecution. He also became notorious for his lifestyle of ostentatious luxury, philandering, and gambling. In 1960 he was denied British citizenship on police advice, which resulted in his moving into more upmarket property pursuits just before his death of a heart attack at the age of about 42. After his death, when his methods became public knowledge, Harold Wilson coined the term "Rachmanism" to describe his racketeering, a term which has passed into common British usage. Rachman was among the most notorious businessmen in modern British history.


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[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]