Alan Sugar

The Right Honourable
The Lord Sugar

Sugar at the 2009 BAFTAs
Born Alan Michael Sugar
(1947-03-24) 24 March 1947
Hackney, East London,
Residence Chigwell, Essex, UK[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Entrepreneur, celebrity, author, politician
Political party None (2015-)
Labour[2] (1997–2015)[3]
Religion None
Spouse(s) Ann Simons, Lady Sugar (m. 1968)
Children The Hon. Simon Sugar
The Hon. Daniel Sugar
The Hon. Louise Sugar
HM Government Enterprise Advisor
Assumed office
25 May 2016
Member of the House of Lords
Assumed office
20 July 2009

Alan Michael Sugar, Baron Sugar, Kt (born 24 March 1947) is an English business magnate, media personality, and political advisor.[4][5] According to the Sunday Times Rich List, Sugar joined the “billionaire’s club" in 2015 and in 2016 they estimated his fortune at £1.15bn, and ranked him as the 95th richest person in the UK.[6] In 2007, he sold his remaining interest in the consumer electronics company Amstrad, his largest and best-known business venture.[7]

Sugar was chairman of Tottenham Hotspur from 1991 to 2001. Sugar appears in the BBC TV series The Apprentice, which has been broadcast annually since 2005 and is based upon the popular US television show of the same name, featuring the American businessman and president elect Donald Trump.[8]

Early life

Sugar was born in Hackney, east London, into a Jewish family.[9] He is the youngest of four children of Fay (1907–1994)[10] and Nathan Sugar (1907–1987). His father was a tailor in the garment industry of the East End.[11]

When Sugar was young, his family lived in a council flat. Because of his profuse, curly hair, he was nicknamed "Mop head", a name that he still goes by in the present day.[12] He attended Northwold Primary School and then Brooke House Secondary School in Upper Clapton, Hackney, and made extra money by working at a greengrocers.[12] After leaving school at 16,[13] he worked briefly for the civil service as a statistician at the Ministry of Education. He started selling car antennas ("aerials") and other electrical goods out of a van which he had bought with his savings of £50.[14]

Personal life

Lord Sugar is an atheist, but remains "proud" of his Jewish heritage.[15] Sugar and his wife Ann (née Simons) married on 28 April 1968; they have two sons and a daughter. Sugar and his wife live in Chigwell, Essex.[1][16] They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on 11 May 2008 with a party at their home, where Sir Bruce Forsyth was the compere, Jackie Mason the comic and Sir Elton John played a set.[17] 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, Sugar owns a Rolls-Royce Ghost with the number plate AMS1, which appears during all episodes of The Apprentice. A qualified pilot with 30 years' experience, Sugar owns a Cirrus SR22 four-seat aircraft, based at Stapleford Airfield.[18][19] During an attempted landing at City Airport Manchester on 5 July 2008, Sugar suffered a crash in this aircraft because of wet and soft field conditions.[20] No injuries were sustained, although Sugar was said to be "very shaken". He is a fan of and the former owner of Tottenham Hotspur.

In February 2009, it was reported that Sugar had initiated legal proceedings against The Sun newspaper following a report that he had been named on a "hit list" of British Jews in response to Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza.[21] The threats are alleged to have been made by Glen Jenvey, the source of the original story in The Sun, who posted to a Muslim website under a false identity.[22]

In 2015, Sugar had an estimated fortune of £1.04 billion (US $1.58 billion).[6]

Political involvement

In February 2009, the Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan claimed that Sugar had been approached to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2012.[23] Sugar subsequently ridiculed the claim in an interview with The Guardian.[24] But, during Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle on 5 June 2009, the BBC reported that Sugar would become Lord Sugar and had been offered a job as the government's "Enterprise Champion".[25] 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 businesses and entrepreneurs.[26] In August 2014, Sugar was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[27]

From 1997 until 2015 Sugar was a member of the Labour Party and also one of its largest donors. On 11 May 2015, four days after the United Kingdom general election, 2015, he announced that he was leaving the party. He issued a statement to say:

In the past year I found myself losing confidence in the party due to their negative business policies and general anti-enterprise concepts they were considering if they were elected. I expressed this to the most senior figures in the party several times. I signed on to New Labour in 1997 but more recently, particularly in relation to business, I sensed a policy shift moving back towards what Old Labour stood for. By the start of this year I had made my decision to resign from the party whatever the outcome of the general election.[28]

Before the London mayoral election, 2016, Lord Sugar claimed that he is popular politically,[29] and repeatedly urged the public to not vote for Sadiq Khan.[30][31] Nonetheless Khan won a landslide victory in the election.

On the 30th May 2016, Lord Sugar intervened in the UK's EU Referendum, and urged voters to remain.[32]


Main article: Amstrad

Sugar founded Amstrad (AMS (his initials) Trading) in 1968. The company began as a general importer/exporter and wholesaler, but soon specialised in consumer electronics. 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.[33] By 1984, recognising the opportunity of the home computer era, Amstrad launched an 8-bit machine, the 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.[34] It inspired an East German version with Z80 clone processors.[35] In 1985, Sugar had another major breakthrough with the launch of the Amstrad PCW 8256 word processor which, although made of 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 CPC machines. It also developed the PC1512, a PC compatible computer, which became quite popular in Europe[36] and was the first in a line of Amstrad PCs.

At its peak Amstrad achieved a stock market value of £1.2 billion,[37] 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), causing high levels of customer dissatisfaction and damaging Amstrad's reputation in the personal computer market, from which it never recovered.[16] Subsequently, Seagate was ordered to pay Amstrad $153 million in damages for lost revenue. This was later reduced by $22 million in an out of court settlement.[38] 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 because there was only a poor selection of games available.[39] Additionally, it was immediately superseded by the Japanese consoles: Mega Drive and Super NES, which both had a much more comprehensive selection of games. In 1993, Amstrad released the PenPad, a PDA, and bought into Betacom and Viglen in order 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 sold in great volume.[40]

On 31 July 2007 it was announced that broadcaster BSkyB had agreed to buy Amstrad for about £125m.[41] 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 on his other business interests.[42]

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, his treatment of Tottenham as a business venture and not a footballing one made him an unpopular figure among the Spurs fans.[43] In Sugar's nine years as chairman, Tottenham Hotspur did not finish in the top six in the league and won just one trophy, the 1999 Football League Cup.

Sugar sacked Venables the night before the 1993 FA Cup Final, a decision which led to Venables appealing to the high courts for reinstatement. 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."[44]

In 1992 he was the only representative of the then big five (Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham) who voted in favour of Sky's bid for Premier League television rights. The other four voted in favour of ITV's bid, as it had promised to show big fives 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 three stars of the 1994 World Cup: Ilie Dumitrescu, Gica Popescu, and most notably Jürgen Klinsmann, who had an excellent first season in English football, being named Footballer of the Year. 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. Sugar appeared on television holding the last shirt Klinsmann wore for Spurs and said he wouldn't wash his car with it. He called foreigners coming into the Premier League at 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?"[45] Klinsmann re-signed for Tottenham on loan in December 1997.

In October 1998, former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham released his autobiography, in which he attacked Sugar as the reason he left Tottenham in 1997. Sheringham said Sugar had accused him of feigning injury during a long spell on the sidelines during the 1993/1994 season. He wrote that Sugar had refused to give him the five-year contract he wanted, as he had not believed Sheringham would still get into the Tottenham team when he was 36. 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, at age 37. Sheringham said that Sugar lacked ambition and was hypocritical. As an example, Sugar asked him for recommendations of players; when Sheringham suggested England midfielder Paul Ince, Sugar refused because he did not want to spend £4 million on a player who would soon be 30. After Sheringham left Spurs, Sugar approved the signing of Les Ferdinand, aged 31, for a club record £6 million, on higher wages than Sheringham had wanted.[46]

Sugar appointed seven managers in his time at Spurs. The first was Peter Shreeves, followed by the dual management team of Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence, former Spurs midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles, and up and coming young manager Gerry Francis. In 1997 Sugar stunned the footballing world by appointing the relatively unknown Swiss manager Christian Gross. Gross lasted 9 months as Spurs finished in 14th place in 1998, and began the next season with just 3 points from their opening three games. Sugar next appointed George Graham, a former player and manager of bitter rivals Arsenal. Despite his earning Tottenham's first trophy in 8 years, the Spurs fans never warmed to Graham, partly because of his Arsenal connections. They disliked the negative, defensive style of football which he had Spurs playing; fans claimed it was not the "Tottenham way".[47]

In February 2001, Sugar sold his majority stake at Tottenham to leisure group ENIC, selling 27% of the club for £22 million.[48] In June 2007, Sugar sold his remaining shares to ENIC for £25 million,[49] ending his 16-year association with the club. He has described his time at Tottenham as "a waste of my life".[50] Sugar later donated £3 million from the proceeds of the sale of his interests in Tottenham Hotspur to the refurbishment of the Hackney Empire in his native East End of London.[51]


Amsair Executive Aviation was founded in 1993, and is run by Sugar's son Daniel Patrick. 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 Legacy 650 with the registration G-SUGA, offering business and executive jet charters.[52]


Main article: Amsprop

Amsprop is an investment firm owned by Sugar and is now controlled by his son Daniel Patrick.[53]

Simon Ambrose, winner of the 2007 series of The Apprentice, started working for Amsprop Estates after the series finished. However, in April 2010, he was reported to be leaving to start his own venture.[54]

Viglen Ltd

Main article: Viglen

Sugar was the owner (and Chairman of the board) of Viglen Ltd, an IT services provider catering primarily to the education and public sector. He resigned his position on 1 July 2009. Following the sale of Amstrad PLC to BSkyB, Viglen is now Sugar's sole IT establishment.[55]


Sugar is Chairman of Amscreen, a company run by his eldest son Simon Sugar, specialising in selling advertising space on digital signage screens that it provides to retailers, medical centres and leisure venues. Apprentice winner Yasmina Siadatan works there, selling into the NHS.[56]

The screens use a Face detection system called OptimEyes to try to identify age and sex of its viewers[57]

In July 2008, Amscreen purchased Comtech M2M, which was founded in September 1992, originally specialising in communications product retailing. This was before entering the M2M market in 1999.[58] On 29 August 2008, Comtech M2M officially changed names to Amscreen Limited.


On 7 March 2011, Sugar replaced Kip Meek on the board of the BBC initiated IPTV project known as YouView (formerly known as Project Canvas) which is also backed by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and broadband providers including BT and TalkTalk.[59] Sugar was paid £500,000 for chairing YouView for the year ending March 2012.[60]

Television appearances

The Apprentice

Main article: The Apprentice (UK)

Sugar became the star of the BBC reality show The Apprentice which has had one series broadcast each year from 2005, 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 or (since the 2011 series) wins a partnership with Sugar, including his investment of £250,000 to establish their own business.

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.[61] 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."[62]

Young Apprentice

Main article: Young Apprentice

Young Apprentice (Junior Apprentice in series 1) is a British reality television programme in which a group of twelve young people, aged 16 and 17, compete to win a £25,000 prize from Lord Sugar. The six-part series began on BBC One and BBC HD on Wednesday, 12 May 2010, concluding on Thursday, 10 June of the same year, and also featured Nick Hewer and Karren Brady as Sugar's advisors. Karren Brady made her debut on Junior Apprentice, because it aired before she appeared on the adult version. The programme concluded with Sugar awarding the prize fund to 17-year-old Arjun Rajyagor and Tim Ankers finished in second place.

The second series started in October 2011, and this time featured eight episodes and twelve contestants. The series was won by Zara Brownless, with James McCullough as runner-up.

Originally proposed in March 2008 and confirmed in June 2009, Junior Apprentice received mostly positive reviews from critics. The programme is a spin-off from the series The Apprentice, which was in turn spawned from an American series of the same name, which stars the entrepreneur Donald Trump. Sugar's role under Gordon Brown's government sparked a debate over the BBC's political impartiality regulations in the run-up to the UK 2010 election, resulting in both Junior Apprentice and the sixth regular edition of The Apprentice being delayed.[63]

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.[64]

In January 2009, Fiona Bruce presented a BBC Two documentary entitled The Real Sir Alan.[12] Also in 2009, Sugar appeared in television advertisements for investment bank NS&I and The Learning and Skills Council talking about apprenticeships.

In May 2011, Sugar presented Lord Sugar Tackles Football, a documentary looking into the financial woes of English football.[65]

In September 2012, Sugar appeared as himself in a cameo in the Doctor Who episode "The Power of Three". [66] Sugar's cameo was filmed on the set of The Apprentice.

In November 2012, Sugar appeared as himself in a cameo in a special episode of EastEnders for Children in Need.[67]

Honours and philanthropy

Sugar was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours "for services to the Home Computer and Electronics Industry".[68][69][70] He holds two honorary Doctorates of Science, awarded in 1988 by City University and in 2005 by Brunel University.[71] He is a philanthropist for charities such as Jewish Care and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and donated £200,000 to the British Labour Party in 2001.[72] On 5 June 2009 it was reported that Sugar had been offered a peerage by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as part of a new enterprise role in his government,[73] and he was subsequently created a life peer as Baron Sugar, of Clapton in the London Borough of Hackney on 20 July 2009.[74][75] On 29 October 2015, Sugar was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 5 in the list of 100 Most Influential British Entrepreneurs.[76][77]


Sex discrimination law

Sugar has been accused of having an "outdated" attitude towards women.[78] 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,[79] 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."[80]


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, with an iron fist not dissimilar to the political style of Joseph Stalin".[81] Concerns have been raised by anti-bullying charity Kidscape that "publicly humiliating" contestants on The Apprentice may give bullying credibility.[82]


In February 2005, Sugar incorrectly 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.[83]


In January 2012, on the second day of the trial of Lord Taylor of Warwick for false accounting, Sugar was ordered by Mr Justice Saunders, sitting in the Crown Court at Southwark, to remove a tweet which the court ruled could prejudice the trial. He was also referred to Her Majesty's Attorney General in relation to a possible contempt of court. However, no action was taken against him.[84]

On 6 October 2013, Sugar was investigated by police after a complaint was made that one of his tweets was racist. The message contained a photo of a child apparently of Chinese origin crying, along with the caption, "The kid in the middle is upset because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5." The police took no action against him.[85]

On the 21 June 2016 after a debate on United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, he made a tweet about Gisela Stuart, using her native name (Gschaider) rather than the name she identifies by, and went on to claim that as a German she shouldn't be telling British people what to do.[86]

See also


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Further reading

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sir Alan Sugar
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Business positions
Preceded by
Irving Scholar
Tottenham Hotspur F.C. chairman
Succeeded by
Daniel Levy
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