Julie Tucker
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From rags to riches: What made Alan Sugar so successful?

You don’t need to be a fan of the BBC programme The Apprentice to have heard of Lord Alan Sugar. As one of the UK’s most savvy, straight-talking businessmen, he’s become a familiar household name to many.

Humble beginnings
Born in 1947 in London’s East End, Alan’s early beginnings were a world away from the wealth and fortune he knows today. Growing up in a council flat, making ends meet was a struggle for the Sugar family.

After spells earning money at a greengrocer’s and within the civil service, Alan’s business streak emerged when he bought a van with his savings. He sold electricals from the back of it.

Birth of Amstrad
At just 21, Alan set up his own business, naming it Amstrad. He sold hi-fi turntable covers, car radios, aerials and other electrical items. However, it was the launch of Amstrad’s personal computer in 1984 that really put Alan’s company on the map – it boasted a net worth of £1.2 billion by 1986. Plus, thanks to Amstrad, TV viewers could affordably purchase Sky set-top boxes.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Amstrad, however. The 1987 stock market crash and stiff competition from rivals such as Sega and Nintendo made life difficult for the brand. However, it eventually sold to BSkyB in 2007 for £125 million.

Other business ventures
Far from being a one-trick pony, Alan has had his fingers in many business pies over the years. He spent a decade as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club during the 1990s, eventually selling his stake for £47 million.

Arguably, Alan’s most profitable business venture to date is his property group, Amsprop, which he established in 1985. Amsprop sells commercial space in sought-after locations such as London, with price tags stretching into millions. The company is said to boast a current net worth of £800 million.

Alan also owns an advertising company called Amscreen, a jet charter business, Amsair, and an IT firm, Viglen. He has also had interests in the Labour Party.

In Alan’s autobiography, he credits his business success to scrutinising the strategies of his rivals, making his products better than others and pandering to the mass market.

The Apprentice
Most famously, Alan is known for his role as no-nonsense, tough-talking host of popular BBC show, The Apprentice. The programme first aired in 2005 and has been going strong ever since, enjoying audience ratings of over eight million.

Through his astute business acumen, Alan and his advisors Karren Brady and Claude Littner test the knowledge and skills of a line-up of ambitious business hopefuls. Renowned for his catchphrase to candidates ‘you’re fired’, Alan isn’t afraid to dole out the put-downs in order to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Winning candidates have gone on to work for Alan’s enterprises, with many of them forming their own business ventures. Tim Campbell (2005 winner) has since set up his own digital marketing agency, Leah Totton (series nine winner) established a botox clinic to the stars, Tom Pellereau (winner from 2011) has invented products such as a collapsible baby bottle, while 2016 winner Alana Spencer has expanded her cake business.

Indeed, Season 10 winner, Mark Wright, who went on to develop one of the UK’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies, Climb Online, in partnership with Lord Sugar, was formerly a Headspace client at our Manchester building and his PR company, Make More Noise, is currently a Headspace client in Birmingham.

As a self-made billionaire, Alan’s savvy business sense has made him one of the UK’s most influential people. Worth a staggering £600 million by the age of just 40 (and then the UK’s 15th richest person), Alan is now said to enjoy a wealth of over £1.3 billion. His name is a firm fixture on newspaper Rich Lists.

Despite his inflated fortunes, Alan is a supporter of charitable causes. He donated £3 million to refurbishing Hackney Empire and his earnings from The Apprentice go to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

In 2000, Alan was knighted for his services to the electronics and home computer industry. He was enlisted by the government as an Enterprise Tsar in 2016.

If you look up to Sir Alan Sugar and aspire to his success, the coworking environments available at Headspace Group can put you in the right frame of mind for fruitful business collaborations.


© roger parkes / Alamy Stock Photo

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