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Alan Sugar

Sir Alan Michael Sugar (born 24 March 1947 in Hackney, London) is an English businessman and philanthropist for such organizations as Jewish Care. After leaving school, he started selling vegetables out of a van he had bought with his savings of 100. He now has an estimated fortune of around 800 million and was ranked 71st in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006.

In 2005 he starred in the BBC TV series, The Apprentice, modelled after the American television show of the same name, featuring entrepreneur Donald Trump, which had already proven popular in the USA.

He was knighted in 2000 for his contributions to business. He is a donor to the British Labour Party despite having primarily risen to fortune during the Margaret Thatcher era.

Amstrad

In 1968 Sugar founded the electronics and computer company Amstrad (taken from his initials Alan Michael Sugar Trading).

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

Amstrad's CPC 464 ComputerIn 1980 Amstrad was listed on the London Stock Exchange. Amstrad as a company doubled in both profit and market value every year throughout the 1980s. By 1984, realising the oncoming opportunity of the computing era, Amstrad launched an 8-bit machine Amstrad CPC 464.

Although the CPC range were colourful machines, with CP/M-capability and a good BASIC operating system, it had to compete with its archrivals the more graphically complex Commodore 64 and the popular Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Despite this, three million were sold worldwide with a long production life of eight years, even inspiring an East German version with Russian z80 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 the same year Amstrad bought the rights to the ZX Spectrum and produced two more models in a similar style to their own CPC machines. It also developed the Amstrad PC 1512, a PC clone, that became quite popular in Europe.

At its peak, Amstrad achieved a stock market value of 1.25 billion, but the 1990s proved a troubling time. The launch of a range of business PCs was marred by unreliable hard disks, supplied by Seagate, causing a very high number of customer returns. This caused great damage to Amstrad's reputation in that market, from which it never quite recovered. Some years later, Amstrad sued Seagate to the tune of $100 million for the lost revenue. In the early-1990s Amstrad began to focus on portable computers rather than desktop computers. In 1990 Amstrad tried to enter the gaming market with the Amstrad GX4000, but it was a commercial failure, because it used 8-bit technology unlike the 16-bit Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo. In 1993 Amstrad released the PenPad, a PDA, also a commercial failure. Amstrad was the only manufacturer producing receiver boxes and dishes at the launch of Sky, and has continued to manufacture set top boxes, including Sky's Sky+ box.

In 1997 Amstrad bought into Betacom and Viglen, as the company decided to focus more on communications as opposed to 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.
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