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Alan Michael Sugar, Baron Sugar (born 24 March 1947) is an English entrepreneur, media personality and political advisor. From origins in the East End of Londonmarker, Sugar now has an estimated fortune of £730m (US$1.16 billion), and was ranked 59th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 (a move up from 92nd in 2008 despite losing £100m). In 2007, he sold Amstrad, one of his large business ventures.

Sugar is also notable for his time as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur from 1991 to 2001, and for starring in the BBC TV series The Apprentice, which has run to five series, broadcast annually between 2005 and 2009 and based upon the popular Americanmarker television show of the same name, featuring entrepreneur Donald Trump.

Early life

Sugar was born in Hackneymarker, East Londonmarker. He is the youngest of four children of Fay and Nathan Sugar. His father was a tailor in the East End garment industry.

When Sugar was a child his family lived in a council flat, and because of his profuse curly hair he was nicknamed "Mopsy". He attended the Brooke House School in Upper Claptonmarker, Hackney, and made extra money by boiling and selling beetroot from a stall. In the BBC 1s The Apprentice (2009) Sugar revealed "I was in the Jewish Lads Brigade, Stamford Hill Division, Trainee Bugler, but it didn't make me sell computers!" After leaving school at 16 he worked briefly for the Civil Service as a statistician at the Ministry of Education. He then started selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van he had bought with his savings of £100.

Personal life

Sugar met his wife Ann when he was 17 and she was 16. They married on 29 April 1968 have three children, and live in Chigwellmarker, Essex. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on 11 May 2008 in a party at their home where Bruce Forsyth was the compere, Jackie Mason the comic and Sir Elton John played a set. His niece through marriage is actress Rita Simons, best known for playing Roxy Mitchell on the popular UK soap opera EastEnders.

A collector of classic Rolls Royce and Bentley motor cars, he famously owns a Rolls Royce Phantom with the number plate AMS1 which appears during all episodes of The Apprentice. Sugar is also a qualified pilot with 30 years experience, and owns a Cirrus SR20 four seat aircraft, based at Stapleford Airfieldmarker. During an attempted landing at Manchester City Airfieldmarker on 5 July 2008, Sugar suffered a crash in this aircraft due to wet soft field conditions. No injuries were sustained, although Sugar was said to be "very shaken".

In February 2009, it was reported that Sir Alan had initiated legal proceedings against The Sun newspaper following a fallacious report that he had been named on a "hit list" of British Jews in response to Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza. The threats are alleged to have actually been made by the source of the original story in The Sun, Glen Jenvey, posting to a Muslim website under a false identity.

Political involvement

In February 2009, Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan claimed that Sir Alan had been approached to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2012. Sir Alan subsequently ridiculed the claim in an interview with The Guardian.

However, during Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle on 5 June 2009, the BBC reported that Sir Alan Sugar would become Lord Sugar and had been offered a job as the government's "Enterprise Champion". On 7 June 2009 Sugar sought to clarify the non-political nature of his appointment. He stated that he would not be joining the government, that the appointment was politically neutral, and that all he wanted to do was help business and entrepreneurs.



Sugar founded the electronics company Amstrad in 1968, the name being an acronym of his initials - Alan Michael Sugar Trading. Despite this acronym Alan Sugar also trades under other business names, see below.

By 1970, the first manufacturing venture was underway. He achieved lower production prices by using injection moulding plastics for hi-fi turntable covers, severely undercutting competitors who used vacuum forming processes. Manufacturing capacity was soon expanded to include the production of audio amplifiers and tuners.
Amstrad's CPC 464 Computer

In 1980, Amstrad was listed on the London Stock Exchange and during the 1980s, Amstrad doubled its profit and market value every year.

By 1984, recognising the opportunity of the home computer era, Amstrad launched an 8-bit machine Amstrad CPC 464. Although the CPC range were attractive machines, with CP/M-capability and a good BASIC interpreter, it had to compete with its arch-rivals, the more graphically complex Commodore 64 and the popular Sinclair ZX Spectrum, not to mention the highly sophisticated BBC Micro. Despite this, three million units were sold worldwide with a long production life of eight years, even inspiring an East German version with Russian Z80 clone processors. In 1985, Sugar had another major breakthrough with the launch of the Amstrad PCW 8256 word processor which, although made of very cheap components, retailed at over £300. In 1986 Amstrad bought the rights to the Sinclair computer product line and produced two more ZX Spectrum models in a similar style to their own CPC machines. It also developed the PC1512, a PC compatible computer, which became quite popular in Europe and was the first in a line of Amstrad PCs.

At its peak, Amstrad achieved a stock market value of £1.2 billion, but the 1990s proved a difficult time for the company. The launch of a range of business PCs was marred by unreliable hard disks (supplied by Seagate), which occasioned a high level of customer dissatisfaction and great damage to Amstrad's reputation in the personal computer market, from which it never recovered. Subsequently, Amstrad sued Seagate for $100 million for lost revenue. In the early-1990s Amstrad began to focus on portable computers rather than desktop computers. Also, in 1990, Amstrad entered the gaming market with the Amstrad GX4000, but it was a commercial failure, largely due to the fact that there was only a very poor selection of games available on it . Additionally, it was immediately superseded by the Mega Drive and Super Nintendo, which both had a much more comprehensive selection of games. In 1993, Amstrad released the PenPad, a PDA, which was bought into Betacom and Viglen, so as to focus more on telecommunications rather than computers. Amstrad released the first of its combined telephony and e-mail devices, called the e-m@iler, followed by the e-m@ilerplus in 2002, neither of which are sold extensively.

On 31 July 2007 it was announced that broadcaster BSkyB had agreed to buy Amstrad for about £125m. At the time of the takeover, Sugar commented that he wished to play a part in the business, saying: "I turn 60 this year and I have had 40 years of hustling in the business, but now I have to start thinking about my team of loyal staff, many of whom have been with me for many years." On 2 July 2008 it was announced that Sugar was standing down from Amstrad as chairman, to focus solely on his other business interests.

Tottenham Hotspur

After a take-over battle with Robert Maxwell, Sugar teamed up with Terry Venables and bought Tottenham Hotspur football club in June 1991. Although Sugar's initial investment helped ease the financial troubles the club was suffering at the time, the way he treated Tottenham from a purely business perspective and not a footballing one made him an unpopular figure among the Spurs fans. In his nine years as chairman, Spurs did not finish in the top six in the league and won just one trophy, the 1999 Worthington Cup .

His reign at Tottenham was not short of controversy. He sacked Venables the night before the FA Cup final, a decision which led to Venables appealing to the high courts to get himself reinstated. A legal battle for the club took place over the summer, which Sugar won (see Re Tottenham Hotspur plc [1994] 1 BCLC 655). The decision to sack Venables angered many of Tottenham fans, and Sugar later said "I felt as though I'd killed Bambi".

In 1992 he was the only representative of the then big five (Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur) who voted in favour of SKY's bid for Premier League television rights. The other four voted in favour of ITV's bid who had promised to show big five games more often. At the time of the vote Sugar's company Amstrad was developing satellite dishes for SKY.

In 1994 Sugar financed the transfers of 3 stars of the 1994 World Cup, Ilie Dumitrescu, Gica Popescu, and most notably Jurgen Klinsmann, who had an excellent first season in English football, being named Footballer of the Year. However, because Spurs had not qualified for the UEFA Cup, Klinsmann decided to invoke an opt-out clause in his contract and left for Bayern Munich in the summer of 1995. This prompted Sugar to appear on television holding the last shirt Klinsmann ever wore for Spurs and said he wouldn't even wash his car with it. He then labelled foreigners coming into the Premier League on high wages as "Carlos Kickaballs". Klinsmann retaliated by calling Sugar "a man without honour", and said:

"He only ever talks about money. He never talks about the game. I would say there is a big question mark over whether Sugar's heart is in the club and in football. The big question is what he likes more, the business or the football?"

However, the two made up their differences and Klinsmann re-signed for Tottenham on loan in December 1997.

In October 1998, former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham released his autobiography, in which he launched a scathing attack on Sugar, claiming that he was the reason that he had left Tottenham in 1997. Among the reasons Sheringham gave for his dislike of Sugar were the fact that he had accused Sheringham of feigning injury during a long spell on the sidelines during the 1993/1994 season. He also said that Sugar had refused to give him the 5 year contract he desired, because he did not believe Sheringham would still get into the Tottenham team when he was 36. Ironically Sheringham returned to Tottenham after his spell at Manchester United and continued to start for the first team until he was released in the summer of 2003, aged 37. Sheringham also claimed that Sugar lacked ambition, and that he was hypocritical. An example he gave was that when Sugar had asked him what sort of players he wanted at the club, he suggested England midfielder Paul Ince, but Sugar refused because he did not want to spend £4 million on a player who would be 30 in a few months time. Just after Sheringham left Spurs, Sugar sanctioned the signing of Les Ferdinand, who was aged 31, for a club record £6 million, on higher wages than Sheringham had wanted.

Sugar appointed seven managers in his time at Spurs. The first of these were Peter Shreeves, the dual management team of Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence, former Spurs midfielder Ossie Ardiles and up and coming young manager Gerry Francis. However, in 1997 Sugar stunned the footballing world by appointing relatively unknown Swiss manager Christian Gross. Gross only lasted 9 months in charge as Spurs finished in 14th place in 1998, and began the next season with just 3 points from their opening 3 games. If that appointment appeared controversial, it was nothing compared to the one that followed it, as Sugar appointed George Graham, a former player and manager of bitter rivals Arsenal. Despite producing Tottenham's first trophy in 8 years, the Spurs fans never warmed to Graham, partly because of his Arsenal connections, but also because of the negative, defensive style of football he had Spurs playing, which fans claimed was not the "Tottenham way".

In February 2001, Sugar sold his majority stake at Tottenham to leisure group ENIC, selling 27% of the club for £22 million. In June 2007, Sugar sold his remaining shares to ENIC for £25 million, ending his 16 year association with the club. He has described his time at Tottenham as "a waste of my life".


Amsair Executive Aviation was founded in 1993, and is run by Sugar's son Daniel. As with Amstrad, the name Amsair is an acronym taken from the initials of Sugar's name "Alan Michael Sugar Air." Amsair operates a large Cessna fleet, and one Embraer ERJ-135 with the registration G-SIRA, offering business and executive jet charters.


Amsprop is an investment firm owned by Sugar and controlled by his son Daniel. In September 2006 it bought the IBM South Bank building from private investors for £115 million. The IBM Centre occupies a prime site between the river and Upper Ground east of the National Theatre and west of ITV's London Television Centre. IBM's lease runs for another eight years. The trade press speculates that the site is likely to present a major redevelopment opportunity. This was featured in the last episode of the 2007 series of the Apprentice UK on the 13 June that year, with the final two contestants planning to build a unique property that would be symbolic in the London skyline.

Simon Ambrose, winner of the 2007 series of The Apprentice, currently works for Amsprop Estates.

Viglen Ltd

Sir Alan is the owner (and Chairman of the board) of Viglen Ltd, an IT services provider catering primarily to the education and public sector. Following the sale of Amstrad PLC to BSkyB, Viglen is now Sugar's sole IT establishment.


Sir Alan is Chairman of Amscreen, a company run by Simon Sugar, his eldest son, specialising in selling advertising space based around screens that they provide to schools and bars.

Lee McQueen, winner of the 2008 series of The Apprentice, currently works for Amscreen. Yasmina Siadatan is scheduled to start work there, selling into the NHS.

TV appearances

The Apprentice

Sugar became the star of the BBC reality show The Apprentice which has had five series broadcast in each year between 2005 and 2009, in the same role as Donald Trump in the US version. Sugar fires a candidate each week until one candidate is left, who is then employed in his company.

As a condition for appearing in the third series, Sugar placed a requirement that the show be more business-orientated rather than just entertainment and that he should be portrayed in a less harsh light, to counter his somewhat belligerent reputation. He also expressed a desire that the calibre of the candidates should be higher than those who had appeared in the second series (who had come across as manifestly lacklustre) and that the motives of the candidates for participating are scrutinised more carefully, given that certain of the candidates in previous series had used their successful experience in the show as a springboard to advance their own careers (as occurred with Michelle Dewberry, the winner of the second series, who left Amstrad's employment only 8 months after taking up the job).

Sugar has criticised the US version of The Apprentice because "they’ve made the fatal error of trying to change things just for the sake of it and it backfired."

On 13 June 2007, Simon Ambrose was crowned as the new apprentice, over Kristina Grimes. For the final task both candidates were given the chance to choose from 8 of the previous fired candidates. After arranging their teams the two finalists were told to create a concept for an office/hotel for one of Sugar's multimillion pound properties. Simon's idea, inspired by a fountain, seemed to interest and please the crowd and Sugar far more than Christina's idea of the Phoenix hotel. Sugar recognised the risks in hiring the less experienced Simon; however, it was a risk he was willing to take. Previously in 2006, Sugar was voted as the seventh scariest celebrity on television in a Radio Times poll consisting of 5,000 people.

On 11 June 2008, Lee McQueen was crowned as Sugar's new apprentice, over Claire Young. For the final task, along with Alex Wotherspoon and Helene Speight, they had to produce a new men's fragrance in two groups of two. Lee and Claire won the task over the other two finalists and Lee went on to be chosen by Sugar to be his new Apprentice.

Other appearances

In May 2008 Sugar made an appearance on An Audience Without Jeremy Beadle to pay tribute to Jeremy Beadle as they were close friends and both appeared on a celebrity special of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2005.

In January 2009, Fiona Bruce presented a BBC Two documentary entitled The Real Sir Alan. Also in 2009, Sugar appeared in television advertisements for investment bank NS&I and The Learning and Skills Council talking about apprenticeships.

Honours and philanthropy

Sugar was knighted in 2000 for services to business. He holds two honorary Doctorates of Science degrees, awarded in 1988 by City Universitymarker and in 2005 by Brunel Universitymarker. He is a philanthropist for charities such as Jewish Care and Great Ormond Street Hospitalmarker, and donated £200,000 to the British Labour Party in 2001. On 5 June 2009 it was reported that Sir Alan Sugar had been offered a peerage by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as part of a new enterprise role in his government, and he was subsequently created Baron Sugar, of Clapton in the London Borough of Hackneymarker.


Sexist discrimination

Sugar has been accused of having an "outdated" attitude towards women. Regarding the 1970s UK law which states that it is discriminatory and hence illegal for women to be asked at interview whether they plan to have children, Sugar is quoted as saying, "These laws are counter-productive for women, that's the bottom line. You're not allowed to ask, so it's easy – just don't employ them. It will get harder to get a job as a woman."


Critics have described Sugar as "out-of-touch" and his work ethic as "a model of bad management in the UK. Negative, bullying and narrow-minded... (Sugar) rules by fear." Concerns have been raised by anti-bullying charity Kidscape that "publicly humiliating" contestants on The Apprentice may give bullying credibility.


In February 2005 Sugar famously predicted that the iPod would be "dead, finished, gone, kaput" by the following Christmas. The comment topped the poll by T3 on the ten worst technology predictions ever.


  1. Sugar: I'm not joining government
  2. Murdoch tells Sir Alan: 'You're bought' | This is Money
  3. Teddy Sheringham: My Autobiography
  7. Ramsay is scariest TV celebrity. Daily Mail. Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
  8. BBC - The Apprentice - The Board
  9. Section 6 of the Act determines general illegality of discrimination against women in obtaining employment.
  10. Now, the backlash
  11. Why on earth would anyone want to work for Sir Alan Sugar?
  12. iPod prediction tops T3's list of gadget gaffes

Further reading

  • David Thomas, "Alan Sugar - the Amstrad Story" (1991), paperback ISBN 0-330-31900-0.
  • Alan Sugar, "The Apprentice: How to get hired not fired"

External links

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