Sir Alan Sugar may be more famous to the wider world as the star of BBC show ‘The Apprentice’, but he made his fortune and his business reputation with Amstrad (Alan Michael Sugar Trading – geddit?), the consumer electronics company he founded aged 21. Amstrad controlled a sizeable chunk of the home computing market in the heady days of the 1980s, at one point achieving a market value of about £1.2bn.
However, since then its fortunes have been on the wane, as rivals have overtaken it in almost every area. These days it spends most of its time making set-top boxes for BSkyB, and the satellite broadcaster ended up buying the company outright last year for £125m. Sir Alan stayed on as chairman, but we can’t imagine he had much to do once the Murdochs took over – and sure enough, now he’s announced that he’s stepping down.
But he’s no intention of retiring, you understand. That would do his TV brand no good at all. Instead he plans to focus on his property business Amshold and Amsprop (following the decline of Amstrad, property is now responsible for most of Sir Alan’s much-vaunted £830m fortune), while also keeping his eye in at private jet business Amsair and IT company Viglen. And then of course he needs to keep some slots free for costume, hair and make-up – looking that good on camera isn’t easy, you know.
Unfortunately for Sir Alan, leaving Amstrad won’t put an end to his management headaches. His latest Apprentice, former recruitment sales manager Lee McQueen, was supposed to start work yesterday but apparently called in sick, saying he had come down with ‘flu-like virus’ after a holiday in Spain. Far be it from us to suggest that he pulled a sickie to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon, but let’s face it: given McQueen’s track record in the probity stakes (interviews revealed that he’d lied on his CV, though Sir Alan didn’t really seem to give a monkey’s), we can’t help feeling there may have been a few eyebrows raised at Sugar HQ...