Amstrad: Sir Alan Sugar
Sir Alan Sugar is recognised as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. With a net worth today of $1.21 billion, he started out working part-time as a shop assistant before school each day to earn enough money to start his own business.
He went on to found the electronics company, Amstrad, when he was 21, later launching the first mass-market home computer in the 1980s. His computers conquered the home and business sectors, with Amstrad being valued at more than £1 billion on the stock market at its peak in the early 1990s.
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Where it all began
Born in Hackney in 1947, Sir Alan started work at 6am every day in a local greengrocer’s store to earn money. It was a typical “rags to riches” story, as he was brought up in a council flat as part of an average working-class family.
Always ambitious, and with a keen business head, Sir Alan left school at 16, as he had saved enough money to buy stock to start an electrical company. He bought various electrical goods and car aerials and then purchased his first van for £50. He sold his stock from the back of the van in the early years.
In 1968, he officially founded his own consumer electronics company, Alan Michael Sugar Trading (known as AMS Trading), which later became Amstrad. This set him on the road to becoming a billionaire.
First computer packages
In 1984, Sir Alan launched Amstrad’s first home computer package and one year later, he produced the first dedicated mass market word processor, the PCW 8256, which opened up a formerly untapped market.
Then, in 1986, Amstrad launched the first personal computer that was IBM-compatible, the PC 1512. It cost only £399 – less than a quarter of the cost of the market-leading PCs of the time.
An instant best-seller, after just six months it had captured 25% of the European PC market. It succeeded in altering the face of the business and personal computer market across Europe, bringing Amstrad global acclaim as a major player in both sectors.
Television and telecom
In 1989, Amstrad launched its first mass-market satellite receiver and dish package for Sky Television. It wasn’t long before Amstrad became the number one European supplier of satellite receivers.
Later in the same year, the company also launched its combined telephone, fax and answering machine, once again winning global domination and cornering 52% of the personal fax market. In 1993, Sir Alan founded Amsair Executive Aviation, adding another string to his bow.
In 1998, Amstrad drew up an agreement with Cable and Wireless Communications to sell CWC-branded telecom products on the retail market. In addition, Amstrad also began supplying a multitude of products to BSkyB for its interactive digital services.
In 1999, Amstrad’s digital satellite receiver, the DRX100, was awarded the Best Sky Receiver Award by What Satellite TV.
Selling the business
In 2007, some 40 years after launching his own company for about £100, including his van, Sir Alan sold his Amstrad computer brand to BSkyB for around $187 million!
He is currently ranked 123rd on the Sunday Times Rich List of the wealthiest people in the UK. As the star of the BBC TV reality series, The Apprentice, today Sir Alan has a property empire and a £12 million yacht – and he can boast more than five million Twitter followers!
He received a Knighthood in the 2000 New Year’s Honours for Services to the Home Computer and Electronics Industry. He was also made a Life Peer on 20th July 2009.
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