THERE’S NO DOUBT that having a degree can open certain doors for you in life, but that’s not to say that without one you can’t break into the 1%.
Though many of today’s most successful business people are alumni of Ivy League or Russell Group institutions, there are a surprising number of billionaires who never even graduated university – about 35%, in fact.
Meet Sir Alan Sugar — €2 billion
Age/From: 68, UK.
How he made his money: Consumer electronics. Founder of Amstrad, which makes Sky Digital boxes.
What he did instead of university: Sugar grew up on a council estate in London and dropped out of education when he was just 14. He then went on to work for the Ministry of Education as a statistician for a brief period before selling electronics and car aerials from the back of a van he bought for £50. He has been very vocal about his opinion of higher education, branding university “a waste of time.”
Sugar was born in Hackney, East London, into a Jewish family. His father, Nathan, was a tailor in the garment industry of the East End. His maternal grandparents were born in Russia, and his paternal grandfather was born in Poland. Sugar’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Sugar, was born in London to Polish parents.
When Sugar was young, his family lived in a council flat. Because of his profuse, curly hair, he was nicknamed “Mop head,” a name that he still goes by in the present day. He attended Northwold Primary School and then Brooke House Secondary School in Upper Clapton, Hackney, and made extra money by working at a greengrocers. After leaving school at the age of sixteen, he worked briefly for the civil service as a statistician at the Ministry of Education. He began selling radio aerials for cars and other electrical goods out of a van which he had bought for £50 and insured for £8. To afford this he withdrew all of his postal savings which totalled just £100.
Sugar is an atheist, but remains proud of his Jewish heritage. Sugar and his wife Ann (née Simons), a former hairdresser, married on 28 April 1968 at Great Portland Street, London. They have two sons and a daughter. The couple live in Chigwell, Essex. Sugar owns a four-seat Cirrus SR22 aircraft and a 13-seat Embraer Legacy 650 jet. During an attempted landing in his Cirrus at the grass airfield City Airport Manchester on 5 July 2008, Sugar overshot the runway after touchdown due to poor weather and wet field conditions. No injuries were sustained, although the plane was slightly damaged and consequently grounded.
He is a supporter and former owner of Tottenham Hotspur.
In February 2009, it was reported that Sugar had initiated legal proceedings against The Sun newspaper following a report that he had been named on a “hit list” of British Jews in response to Israel’s ongoing military operation in Gaza. The threats are alleged to have been made by Glen Jenvey, the source of the original story in The Sun, who posted to a Muslim website under a false identity. In recent years Sugar has enjoyed a running love-hate Twitter war with broadcaster Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor and CNN anchor. On 10 June 2020, Sugar, a pilot since 1975, announced on Twitter that he was taking delivery of a new 2020 Cirrus SR22T single-engine aircraft from the United States where he owns a Florida home and multiple boats, including a refurbished one named Little Tub and a superyacht.
In 2015, Sugar had an estimated fortune of £1.04 billion (US$1.58 billion).
In December 2020, he announced that both his brother and sister had died from Coronavirus.