International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
The Biography by Charlie Burden
Published by John Blake Publishing 2009
the last few years British television has been saturated with reality
shows. One in particular has received much attention and commentary
not so much because of its contestants, but because of one man,
Sir Alan Sugar. For those that did not know about him before The
Apprentice aired they did afterwards. With his straight-talking
direct approach and aptitude for the one line put-down his
fame and notoriety grew. His catch phrase Youre fired.
Was soon being imitated by the general public and seized upon by
Before this phenomenon
there was a much bigger and engrossing story. To those that are only
aware of Sir Alan Sugar as a television personality there is a fascinating
background and subject behind the public persona. Author Charlie Burden
attempts to tell this remarkable businessmans life story.
Born in Hackney and growing up in the East End of London helped to shape
the strong independent streak in Sugar, Burden tells us. The reader
will also learn that Sugar left education at the age of seventeen without
attending University. In his first year of working he walked out on
no less than four jobs which were more a reflection of his employers
shortcomings than his own. At a very early age Sugar had strong business
acumen and it was not long before he set up his own business Alan Michael
I thoroughly enjoyed reading these early chapters as it was presenting
a different image and a world a million miles away from his later fortune.
The pages turned quickly as I read how Sugar used to sell electronic
goods from the back of a van, until within a few years he turned this
small firm into an empire. As Sugar puts it himself it was not necessarily
the amount of money he made but rather the buzz he got from
making a good deal.
I did feel that Burdens biography jumps somewhat from Sugars
marriage and early business success to his days developing computers
from 1982 onwards. What happened to the 1970s? These intervening years
The rest of the book is going to be familiar to some and new to others.
Burden informs us episodically how computer giant Amstrad was born and
how Sugars company developed also into communications, satellite
television with Rupert Murdochs Sky (Sugar produced the satellite
dishes), property and private jet hire. His tumultuous time as Chairman
at football club Tottenham Hotspur is well documented and Burden does
well here but you get the general feeling that no new insight is being
offered, rather a summary of well established facts.
I did enjoy how a self-made man became a giant entrepreneur in the business
world with an estimated fortune of £830 million. It is compulsive
in parts; however, Burden is unable to go deeper than just presenting
the facts. His book is cobbled together from interviews and quotations
from newspapers and magazines; so much is already common knowledge.
I also found his descriptions a little too reverential and even fawning
There is a totally unnecessary summary of each series of The Apprentice
that most of us will be familiar with already. Why tell us what happened
all over again? Burden again offers very little added insights so this
is a pretty much redundant part of the book. In its defence this biography
is like a beginners guide to all things Sir Alan Sugar. There is plenty
of surface, but not enough depth for my liking. Burden also does tend
to speculate what Sugar was thinking at key moments in his life and
this is the problem with any biography, without input from your subject
you can only guess, using secondary evidence to back your work up.
The rest we know. Behind his gruff and blunt exterior there is a warm,
witty, devoted family man. What Burden has done is to catalogue Sugars
public life and achievements so far well and for this he is to be commended.
Just dont expect more than that from this biography.
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