Star of BBC flagship show The Apprentice, Sir Alan Sugar, has been spotted scouting business properties on the Isle-of-Wight today.
Snapped taking a photo of a branch of the belleagured BrightHouse chain in Newport High Street, We understand the hard-nosed business magnate already owns property on the island, including a summer retreat in Bembridge.
Whether Sir Sugar’s interest is in the one BrightHouse store in particular, or this may be a clue to a somewhat bigger business takeover, is pure speculation.
Last month regulators ordered BrightHouse, the rip-off rent-to-buy high street chain to pay back almost £15 million, to 250,000 customers, for their extortionate interest rates. The compensation comes after the firm was forced to introduce stricter affordability checks. It lost 44,000 customers, closed 29 stores and racked up an £111,000 loss in the year to March.
Sir Alan may be looking to swoop in behind the backs of a pack of hedge funds reportedly seeking a takeover of the high street chain. BrightHouse’s bondholders had set an informal deadline of today to strike a deal to restructure its balance sheet but this appears to have now fallen by the wayside.
While adhering to that timetable was not feasible, their move underlines the increasing likelihood of a change of control at the high street business, with its nationwide network of nearly 300 outlets.
Lord Sugar is worth £1.25 billion ($1.66 billion), and placed just outside the top 100 in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, in 103rd place. This makes him nearly four times richer than the Queen.
However, despite cultivating an image as an entrepreneur, bolstered by his lead role in The Apprentice, it is actually property not crap products like the Emailer+ where Sugar has made his millions.
Amshold, the overall holding company of the Sugar empire, recently completed the redevelopment of The Crosspoint near Liverpool Street in London, while its portfolio also includes The Lever Building near Barbican, which is let out to Tesco, and Gloucester House on Old Park Lane, home to a branch of the Hard Rock Cafe amongst others.
Previous winner of The Apprentice, Mark Wright, said in 2015 that, “Lord Sugar said you make money from property and do business for fun”.
So, whether the diminutive Hackney billionaire is interested in buying a BrightHouse store, or the entire empire, we will just have to wait and see…