Apprentice boss Lord Sugar has revealed his one big business regret.
The former Amstrad owner, valued at £1.04 billion on the Sunday Times Rich List, said he regrets not sticking it out in the phone industry like Apple founder Steve Jobs.
He bought mobile company Dancall in 1993 for £6.3 million and sold it to German electronics giant Bosch in 1997 for £92 million, but said in hindsight he would not have “given up making mobile phones as early as we did” and also would have become an internet service provider.
“Was it a good deal? I don’t know. Looking back now, you think perhaps I should have held onto it and been in the smart phone business, apps and all that type of stuff, but I can’t complain, I’ve made a lot of money, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Lord Sugar praised the vision of Apple’s Steve Jobs and said that while Jobs would be remembered as a genius, his own immortal words “You’re fired” would probably haunt him after he was gone.
“Steve Jobs had a vision, he’s a marketing man. I met him quite a few times, we kind of grew up in the electronics industry together, with him and Bill Gates and myself.
“He had a vision and he gets a lot of the accolade for the Apple stuff, although there are a lot of people around him who did it too,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’ll be remembered for, most probably by the population for firing people,” he added.
Despite his regrets, Lord Sugar said rising from 101st in the Rich List was not on his list of New Year’s resolutions. “I’ve been a multi-millionaire since I was 31 years old and you get to a stage where it makes no difference really. It really makes no difference at all,” he said.
Lord Sugar faced criticism that he was out of touch after comments to the Saturday Times asking why people in poverty had mobile phones and microwaves.
“I’m not out of touch, that’s for sure,” he said, but refused to elaborate on the subject.
Currently, Lord Sugar is about to reprise his role as the hiring-and-firing boss on BBC One show The Apprentice.
This series features among its contestants 23-year-old sales account manager Mergim Butaja as well as a builder, social media entrepreneur and a private tutor.
Butaja came to Britain as a refugee from war-torn Kosovo at the age of seven, and Lord Sugar commended his work ethic and said giving Butaja an equal opportunity to win his £250,000 investment was “what the programme’s all about”.
“It was so important for me to give him a chance. It’s what the programme’s all about.
“This boy has had a tough life: he came over as a refugee from Kosovo, regretfully his father passed and it was left for him to look after his mother and his siblings. He had four jobs, working honestly to keep them going. It’s fantastic, it’s why I put him in the process, to have a chance,” he said.
The first episode will see Butaja attempt to sell fish to a vegan restaurant and stir up Lord Sugar’s impatience in the boardroom. But Lord Sugar urged viewers to “wait” for the rest of the series if they thought his portrayal was unfair.
While Lord Sugar said that he “absolutely (does) not” have ambitions to be prime minister one day, he was watching his former US Apprentice counterpart Donald Trump’s presidential candidate campaign with interest. “All I can say is this: you must never underestimate the American population. Stranger things have happened. I’d be a fool to say he’s got no chance and it’s absolute nonsense, and I think he’s got a certain following in America. Who knows?”
Despite a hair extension specialist among the candidates this year, Lord Sugar said he doubted that viewers would suddenly see bald newcomer Claude Littner sporting a hairstyle like Trump’s. “I think Claude considers himself modern with his bald look, his Telly Savalas look,” he joked.