Sir Alan Sugar is one of my favorite business men, literally from a council estate in Hackney to a billionaire business man.
Sir Sugar founded Amstrad (AMS (his initials) Trading) in 1968. The company began as a general importer/exporter and wholesaler, but soon specialized in consumer electronics. By 1970, the first manufacturing venture was underway. He achieved lower production prices by using injection moulding plastics for hi-fi turntable covers, severely undercutting competitors who used vacuum-forming processes. Manufacturing capacity was soon expanded to include the production of audio amplifiers and tuners.
In 1980 Amstrad was listed on the London Stock Exchange and during the 1980s Amstrad doubled its profit and market value every year.By 1984, recognising the opportunity of the home computer era, Amstrad launched an 8-bit machine, the Amstrad CPC 464. Although the CPC range were attractive machines, with CP/M-capability and a good BASIC interpreter, it had to compete with its arch-rivals, the more graphically complex Commodore 64 and the popular Sinclair ZX Spectrum, not to mention the highly sophisticated BBC Micro. Despite this, three million units were sold worldwide with a long production life of eight years. It inspired an East German version with Z80 clone processors. In 1985, Sugar had another major breakthrough with the launch of the Amstrad PCW 8256 word processor which retailed at over £300, but was still considerably cheaper than rival machines (such as the Apple Macintosh Plus, which retailed at $2599). In 1986 Amstrad bought the rights to the Sinclair computer product line and produced two more ZX Spectrum models in a similar style to their CPC machines. It also developed the PC1512, a PC compatible computer, which became quite popular in Europe and was the first in a line of Amstrad PCs.
In 1988 Stewart Alsop II called Sugar and Jack Tramiel "the world's two leading business-as-war entrepreneurs".At its peak Amstrad achieved a stock market value of £1.2 billion,but the 1990s proved a difficult time for the company. The launch of a range of business PCs was marred by unreliable hard disks (supplied by Seagate), causing high levels of customer dissatisfaction and damaging Amstrad's reputation in the personal computer market, from which it never recovered. Subsequently, Seagate was ordered to pay Amstrad $153 million in damages for lost revenue. This was later reduced by $22 million in an out of court settlement.In the early 1990s, Amstrad began to focus on portable computers rather than desktop computers. Also, in 1990, Amstrad entered the gaming market with the Amstrad GX4000, but it was a commercial failure, largely because there was only a poor selection of games available.Additionally, it was immediately superseded by the Japanese consoles: Mega Drive and Super NES, which both had a much more comprehensive selection of games. In 1993, Amstrad released the PenPad, a PDA, and bought into Betacom and Viglen in order to focus more on telecommunications rather than 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, neither of which sold in great volume..
On 31 July 2007 it was announced that broadcaster BSkyB had agreed to buy Amstrad for about £125m. At the time of the takeover, Sugar commented that he wished to play a part in the business, saying: "I turn 60 this year and I have had 40 years of hustling in the business, but now I have to start thinking about my team of loyal staff, many of whom have been with me for many years." On 2 July 2008 it was announced that Sugar was standing down from Amstrad as chairman, to focus on his other business interests.