Feature

Sir Alan Sugar talks to Campaign

If there's one thing Sir Alan Sugar hates more than advertising people, it's journalists.

Sir Alan Sugar...Apprentice guru and former Amstrad bos
Sir Alan Sugar...Apprentice guru and former Amstrad bos

Mmm, the next hour with the notoriously irascible star of The Apprentice, the nation’s favourite bully, promises to be a real treat for this advertising journalist.

"Let’s go up to the top floor," he says warmly. "I think you’ll like it." We emerge from the lift into a vast, empty white chamber with a vaulted ceiling.

"I would imagine this floor would be taken over by the boss," he says, only half in jest.

"It was designed for creative geniuses to inspire them with one of the best views in London. We made a patio out there so when the weather’s good he can get his hammock out and sunbathe."

Yes, this is Sir Alan Sugar as we’ve never seen him: Sir Alan Supplicant. Perhaps because he has an agenda. He has invited Campaign into his newly refurbished office block, the old Grey building in Great Portland Street, because he wants to let it. Quickly. Preferably to an ad agency.

Yes. The man who has famously taken almost every opportunity to take a pot shot at adland is out to woo ad agencies.

"I have got the greatest respect for ad agencies,î he laughs. "For earning the money they do, it’s fantastic."

He admits his obsession with cost has made him unpopular in ad circles. But that doesn’t mean he thinks advertising is worthless. In fact, he says it was fundamental in the 80s and 90s to building his fortune, which peaked at £1.2 billion when he ran the consumer electronics outfit Amstrad.

But it is his commitment to property that is likely to scupper suggestions that senior Labour figures are lining him up to stand as Labour candidate for mayor of London against Ken Livingstone.

"No, that’s nonsense, total nonsense. Anyone with any sense would realise that it would be impossible for me to be London’s mayor," he says.

The conflict of interest would be just too great, he says. "Take this building. We went though all the bureaucratic processes to get planning consent for an extra floor. Could you imagine me doing exactly the same thing when I was mayor of London? I’d be cannon fodder for the newspapers." Mind you, Sir Alan is used to that.

This is an abridged version of an article in this week’s Campaign magazine. Click here to subscribe.