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Time to Quit Whilst You're Still Ahead, M'Lord

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"Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput"
- Alan Sugar, February 2005

The other night, I was watching my family all hustled together as they watched The Apprentice and was overcome with a desire to throw up things I'd forgotten ever having eaten.

This was not because they were wasting their time listening to the egotistical spiel spouted by the usual band of mediocre candidates, but rather it was Sugar himself who was the issue.

One seems to be continuously told about what an inspiring entrepreneur the man is, and I have nothing but respect for his early success with Amstrad.

But that is a very long time ago.

Yet, millions tune in to listen to this un-articulate, un-inspiring, un-intelligent, supposed 'entrepreneur' speak weekly.

At its peak in the late Eighties, Sugar's Amstrad was valued at £1.2 Billion. However, it was sold for just £125 million to BskyB in 2010.

At the point of sale, three-quarters of Amstrad's revenue came from BskyB, making it Sugar's largest client. But they were still only purchasing three out of every ten of its set-top boxes from him.

This is a man who was supposed to be at the very height of technological advancement. Yet he missed every conceivable technology market since the Eighties, when he achieved great success with his Home Computer range.

A combination of Sugar's arrogance entwined with short-sightedness, and a gross under investment in research and development, meant that by 1989, Sugar, having had a quarter of the personal computer market in Europe, saw his market lead completely and utterly wither.

This was then followed by a series of spectacular failures. In the early Nineties, Sugar launched the GX 4000, a games console that was utterly smashed away by The Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo (both boasted 16-bit machines, whereas the GX 4000 was only an 8-bit machine).

Sugar having been totally embarrassed in this market, then decided in 1993 to attempt to break the Pen Pad market instead, with the launch of the Amstrad Pen Pad, which was greatly overpriced, and a terribly underperforming piece of equipment.

Following such humiliation, Sugar scuttled off and deserted the computer market, to essentially focus on developing set-top boxes for Sky - but even in this market he could not gain a monopoly.

His last throw at the dice came in 2000, when Sugar hopelessly failed to launch 'the emailer'. He greatly misunderstood the general public, believing the "truck driver and his wife" desired a stripped down phone and text messaging machine; whereas, rather it transpired they desired the same functionality as those Sugar dismissed as "advertising tossers".

Furthermore, the emailer was based on a 'pay as you go' model that greatly favoured Amstrad - with access to both the internet and emails required to go through a premium-line phone number, meaning it was a very expensive - hardly designed for the "truck driver and his wife", who Sugar professed to support.

Between the early 1990's and late 2000's, Sugar essentially watched stagnantly, like a fish out of water as technological advancements swept past him, and today, the majority of his money is tied up in property investments, which is mostly run by his son, Simon under his company, Amsprop.

It can be no longer said that Sugar advances or develops anything, he simply speculates on property.

Thus with declining ratings for The Apprentice, and an ever fading authority on his subject matter, perhaps it's high time that m'Lord quit whilst he's still ahead, since perhaps it'll be him who'll be "finished, gone, kaput" by next Christmas.

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