Inside Story: Television's top business gurus
Television can't get enough of the gurus who like to tell us how we too can make millions. So who are they and what's their secret? Richard Gillis takes stock of the top 10
Monday 23 October 2006
SIR ALAN SUGAR, 69, THE APPRENTICE, BBC1
The Apprentice was initially a hit on US television with Donald Trump as the big bad boss offering work to teams of aspiring business hotshots. Amstrad supremo Sir Alan does the hiring and firing on the UK version, made by Talkback Thames, in conjunction with Mark Burnett, the American producer. The show was the hit of last autumn's schedules on BBC2, with 6 million viewers tuning in to see the final episode, persuading the Beeb to move it to a prime slot on BBC1 this autumn.
Sugar, whose personal wealth is put at £790m according to the Sunday Times Rich List, gives his fee for The Apprentice to the Great Ormond Street children's hospital in London. While the net worth of Amstrad, the company that made his name, is down from its peak, profits have been growing year on year, and the company is worth £140m. His media profile has shows no sign of diminishing, however, with recent appearances on Room 101, ads for Premium Bonds and a red carpet arrival at the UK Soap Awards.
JOHN CAUDWELL, 53, TROUBLE AT THE TOP, BBC2
Caudwell was the star of Trouble at the Top, a forerunner of The Apprentice, which offered contestants a £100,000-a-year job within his Phones 4u empire. The show changed format following the first series, and Caudwell left to go back to the day job, a wise move given that he recently sold Phones 4u for £1.5bn to private equity firms Providence and Doughty Hanson.
Caudwell rose from humble beginnings to become one of Britain's richest men. He says he imagined becoming a millionaire when he was only seven. He is known for paying visits to underperforming stores on his bicycle; last year he broke the record for taking a light aircraft from standing position to an altitude of 6km, a feat that has been challenged recently by Sir Richard Branson.
DUNCAN BANNATYNE, 58, DRAGON'S DEN, BBC2
One of the original panel members of Dragon's Den, BBC2's cross between Pop Idol and The Apprentice, which sees would-be entrepreneurs pitching money-making ideas to four millionaires in the hope of getting a helping hand. Bannatyne has signed up for series four and is worth an estimated £168m according to The Sunday Times Rich List, mainly from a hotel and leisure business, which he recently bolstered by buying the LivingWell chain of health centres for some £90m.
He has formed Bannatyne Media, which includes Sharp Edge, a magazine aimed at millionaire wannabes, and he has engaged the business PR specialist Richard Hillgrove of RJH Management to raise his profile even further. Bannatyne has been a panellist on Channel 5's flagship show The Wright Stuff and was chosen for Sport Relief's celebrity show-jumping programme Only Fools on Horses, where he fell, fracturing an elbow.
PETER JONES, 40, AMERICAN INVENTOR, ABC
Following his success on Dragon's Den Jones has taken his lofty putdowns to the US on American Inventor, a similar show which attracts 14m viewers. The winning entrant is given $1m with which to launch their product in the US. The programme is the brainchild of Jones and X Factor über-judge Simon Cowell, the link between them being Max Clifford, the publicist who represents both men. Jones, whose net worth was valued at £180m by The Sunday Times Rich List in 2005, has signed a two-year deal with ITV, and there are plans for the UK version of Inventor, with Jones on board as judge. In addition to Peter Jones TV, his media interests include Wonderland, a style and lifestyle magazine. Jones describes himself as an "Ultrapreneur - a super heroic leader of hearts and minds".
SIMON WOODROFFE, 54, DRAGON'S DEN, BBC2
Founder of the Yo! Sushi chain of restaurants and rumoured to be developing a business series for Channel 4 which gives viewers the chance to phone in and buy shares in prospective companies. Woodroffe left school at 16 with four O-levels (admittedly the school was Marlborough College), and is one of the UK's most successful conference and motivational speakers. Charging around £10,000 a day, he appeared at the Labour Conference this year and at the Edinburgh Festival. He was in the first series of Dragon's Den but was best remembered for not investing any money. The reason he gave was that all the ideas put in front of him were "crap". He sold his controlling interest in Yo! Sushi, famous for its conveyor-belt food delivery, for £10m but retains a 22 per cent stake. Woodroffe does podcasts for Capital Radio, interviewing other very rich business people.
MICHELLE MONE, 34, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, BBC1
Mone, the boss of Ultimo lingerie, is a regular daytime presence on BBC1 in Mind Your Own Business, a show offering guidance to the owners of small businesses. Raised in the east end of Glasgow, her brother died when she was 10 years old and her father was paralysed when she was 12. Mone left school at the age of 15 and is now one of Management Today's Top 30 female entrepreneurs. She spoke at a recent Leaders in London International Leadership Summit, where she shared a platform with Bill Clinton, Terence Conran and Mikhail Gorbachev. And Mone created a stir in the tabloids when she sacked Penny Lancaster, Rod Stewart's current partner, and replaced her with Rachel Hunter, Rod Stewart's ex-partner, as the face and body of the Ultimo bra.
In 2001 her company, MJM International, which she formed 10 years ago, featured in a BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary that followed her business career over a two-year period. Mone has recently signed a deal with Debenhams for a new range of lingerie aimed at women over 35, and which uses Jade Jagger as its figurehead.
CHRIS GORMAN, 39, MAKE ME A MILLION, CHANNEL 4
Serial entrepreneur and founder of The Gadget Shop who helped organise the Scottish leg of Live 8, Gorman made £35m when he sold his e-commerce firm Reality Group to Universal Stores. Appeared in Make Me a Million, Channel 4's business mentoring programme. The format put three millionaires - Gorman, Ivan Massow and Emma Harrison - in charge of their own team of young thrusters in search of a fortune. Gorman invested £30,000 in The Lean Team, an ambitious online health, weight loss and wellbeing service. Part of his motivational technique saw him take his two protégés for a tour of his own house to give them a flavour of the super-rich lifestyle.
MARTIN WEBB, 42, RISKING IT ALL, CHANNEL 4
Webb fronts the Channel 4 show that helps aspiring entrepreneurs through their difficult first year of business. He made his fortune by selling C-Side, a Brighton-based leisure company he co-founded in 1993 and which within eight years grew from a £10,000 investment into 28 venues and which sold for £15m in 2001. Went on to set up Peoples Pubs - the UK's first pub chain that gives outlets' net profits to local charities. Webb suggests the most important step for would-be entrepreneurs is the leap of faith to leave behind the security of their day job. "You've got to summon up immense self-confidence from somewhere and that was the same for me, because I did have the option of just getting a normal job," he says. Risking It All has just finished its third series and is part of the 4Money strand of programming and online content that boasts Noel Edmonds's Deal or No Deal as its major success story to date.
ALEXANDER AMOSU, 28, MIND OF A MILLIONAIRE, BBC2
The 28-year-old Amosu was dubbed "Lord of the Ringtones" because of his RnB Ringtones start-up, which turned over £1.2m in its first year. Featured in Mind of a Millionaire, BBC2's look at what makes rich people tick, which concluded, for example, that millionaires were obsessed by money, didn't like holidays and shopped in Gap. Amosu runs the Mind of an Entrepreneur event at Earl's Court in London, which includes a challenge to win a job within his company. "I wish the Government would train kids to be more entrepreneurial," he says. Having sold RnB Ringtones, Amosu has launched MobsVideo, which offers music and sports videos to customers who agree to watch adverts on their phones.
RUTH BADGER, 28, THE BIG IDEA, SKY ONE
Sky was so taken by the hard-nosed acumen of the 2005 Apprentice runner-up that it made her the face of its new reality business show, The Big Idea. It's a Dragon's Den-Apprentice hybrid in which contestants vie to win £100,000 for their concept. Judges include Lord Bilimoria, chief executive and founder of Cobra Beer, and Craig Johnston, the former Liverpool footballer who made and lost a fortune inventing the Predator boot. The show has been underwritten by Vodafone, in one of the most ambitious examples of advertiser-funded programming. Losing out to Michelle Dewberry in the race to a job in Sugar's Xenon Green business doesn't seem to have done Badger much harm. Dewberry, meanwhile, has ridden a publicity rollercoaster after she and fellow-Apprentice contestant Syed Ahmed formed a relationship and then she suffered a miscarriage. She recently left Sugar's company "by mutual consent".
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