Leaders in the spotlight: Alan Sugar

Alan Sugar

Alan Michael Sugar was born on 24 March 1947 and is a British entrepreneur, media personality and political advisor.

Born in Hackney, East London to a Jewish family, Sugar grew up on a council flat but it wasn’t long until his entrepreneurial flair become clear to those who met him.

Having left school at 16, Sugar briefly worked for the Ministry of Education as a statistician – however, he was also selling aerials for cars and other electrical goods out of his van.

Just five years later, Sugar founded Amstrad – a importer/exporter and wholesale business that specialised in consumer electronics.

The company was an early adopter of injection moulding plastics, which led to cheaper products and undercutting any competition at the time..

By 1980, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and throughout the decade, Amstrad doubled its market value and profit year on year. At its peak in 1988, the business was valued at £1.2 billion.

The 1990s proved harder for the business as a rapid growth in tech and number of competitors flooded the market.

Amstrad suffered from unreliable products and the damage to the brand never recovered. Their personal computers were marred with constant issues.

Despite the business trying to expand further into the tech market with the releases of its own gaming console – there was no return. The console itself couldn’t match the sale of the Mega Drive of Nintendo Super NES.

In 1993, Amstrad expanded into the telecoms business, in a move away from the personal computer routes they had established.

Over the next decade, they advanced into email devices/programmes and internet-based tech. These received greater success than what the business had seen in many years.

In the early 2000s, Amstrad released a series of home entertainment products, including DVD players and music systems.

Sugar sold the business in July 2007 to BSkyB for £125 million. He remained Chairman for a further six months, before he left citing an interest in focusing on his other business ventures.

In 1991, Sugar staged a takeover of his favourite football team – Tottenham Hotspurs – with Terry Venables. He made the move to takeover the club to help ease the financial woes the club was suffering from at the time.

His time at the club wasn’t enjoyed by the majority of Spurs fans, as Sugar was viewed as treating the club as a business, rather than a footballing venture. The club did not finish in the top six during his time at the club and only won one trophy – the 1999 League Cup.

Controversies involving Venables, star strikers Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann, and a series of managerial appointments all heavily involved Sugar.

Sugar sold his majority stake in the club to ENIC leisure group for £22 million in February 2001. He kept a small share in the club until June 2007, when ENIC purchased the rest of the shares.

Sugar described his 16 year association with his boyhood club as “a waste of my life”.

Many people will know Sugar from his hit BBC TV show – The Apprentice. 12 or more candidates start the show and each week, they are whittled down to one, who is then offered a contract to work for Sugar himself.

Sugar has received a series of notable honours in his life. In 2000, he was knighted as part of the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to the electronics industry. Nine years later, he was made a life peer, and became Baron Sugar.

At the end of 2016, Sugar had a reported wealth of almost £1.2 billion.

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