'My wife says she knew on the day we met that I was Mr Right,' says Sir Alan Sugar


Last updated at 00:06 11 May 2008

Piers Morgan

"Ann and I would like to invite you to our 40th wedding anniversary party," said the email from Sir Alan Sugar.

And I nearly keeled over from shock. Not at being invited – as The Mail on Sunday's official party correspondent, naturally I get invited to everything – but at

the fact that the grizzly old growler was actually doing something vaguely "romantic" for his delightful, long-suffering wife.

To give you some idea of how detached The Apprentice host is from his sentimental side, he once, infamously, sent his wife, Ann, a birthday card signed "Best wishes, Sir Alan Sugar."

I arrived at the sprawling Sugar mansion in Chigwell, Essex, to find a long tarpaulin tunnel patrolled by a small army of security men, leading through to an absolutely enormous marquee teeming with more than 250 people in smart black tie, standing around several large bars and gleefully guzzling vintage champagne.

It was spectacularly lavish, like a scene from a Corleone family wedding in The Godfather. The centrepiece was two giant digitally enhanced photos of the happy couple on their wedding day.

Scroll down for more ...

Sir Alan Sugar

Sir Alan Sugar says throughout his 40-year marriage to Ann the focus of attention has been 'unfairly' on him

Sir Alan bounded towards me, looking horribly slim and tanned after a month in Miami. "Nice place," I said.

"This?" he replied, with mock disdain. "It's just a small tent in my back garden."

"So is this going to be fun then?" I asked.

"Wait and see," he said, with what I thought was a slight twinkle in his beady eye.

I found my table, one of at least

25 spread around the marquee on two levels, all decorated with sumptuous arrays of flowers, and the finest silver, cut glass and china.

Seconds later Bruce Forsyth walked on to a big stage in front of me to announce that there would be "a series of surprises."

Brucie worked the crowd for a bit, but we were all too sober to let our hair down yet. In a desperate bid to raise

the atmosphere, he grabbed Maureen Lipman and whisked her around in a fast foxtrot, not once realising who she was.

"Is that really you, Maureen?" he gasped in embarrassment when

he returned to the stage and the penny finally dropped. "Oh my God, I'm

so sorry!"

Scroll down for more ...

Sir Alan Sugar party

Bruce Forsyth jokes with Sir Alan's assistant Nick Hewer, who appears on The Apprentice

Things got worse for the great man when one of Sir Alan's young grandsons came up and sang a hilarious version of Elton John's "Daniel" to his father, who has the same name, and his grandfather. It included lyrics like "Woah oh, oh, Daniel and papa, you're both as old as can be, you moan about aches and pains, now it's rubbed off on me" and earned a standing ovation.

Brucie threw his hands in the air in mock exasperation. "Sixty years in showbusiness," he wailed, "and I end up being the warm-up for a seven-year-old!"

Sensing the great man needed a bit of support, I deliberately laughed over-loudly

at one joke, and he stopped

and peered down to where I

was sitting.

"Piers, is that you? Thank God you're here, at least I've got one laugh." Which, of course, brought the house down.

Scroll down for more ...

Sir Alan Sugar

Sir Alan with veteran New York comic Jackie Mason, who came from New York for the party

The first surprise was Jackie Mason, the best and most outrageous Jewish comic in the world, who had flown in from New York just for the occasion. And who, to my joy, instantly launched into an offensive verbal bombardment of our host.

"I don't know why I'm here," he said, "or who for, other than he's a billionaire with a big head and short legs."

I turned to Sir Alan, whose face was frozen in a fixed, horrified grin.

"I understand he has lots of friends, none of whom could be here tonight. He is such a humble modest private man. That's why he's on TV all the time."

I would have paid a considerable amount of money for this.

Mason's other gags, targeted at the predominantly Jewish audience, were splendidly politically incorrect – and extremely funny. "Sushi," he mused, "must have been created by two Jews thinking, 'How can we open a restaurant without a kitchen?'”

He went on: "I was a sensation when I performed in Israel last month. But when I played in Palestine, it didn't go so well. Still, they gave me my fee plus $500,000 funeral expenses."

Scroll down for more ...

Elton John

Elton John gave a surprise performance

And they kept on coming. "Gentiles look at Bill Gates making $100billion and think: 'Well done.' Jews think: "Is that all he makes?...Women say, 'I do,' and that's the last thing they

ever do..."

The second surprise was a stunning one-off private performance by the cast of the West End musical smash Jersey Boys, which is based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

I was beginning to wonder how much all this party was costing, and thinking somewhere in the region

of £2million.

Then came the speeches. First up was Sir Alan's Apprentice sidekick Nick Hewer, who revealed how Sir Alan and Lady Sugar first met. "Alan was 17, Ann was 16, and she said it was his sense of humour that she was attracted to."

Cue an explosion of laughter from everyone who knows them. Not sure why though – it was hardly going to be for his looks, was it?

Sir Alan himself then took the podium. "I can honestly say I have never ever heard anyone say a bad word about Ann," he said. "As you know you can't say the same about me. Talk about chalk and cheese. She always says the day she met me she knew she had met Mr Right; what she didn't know was that my first name was Always.'

He then addressed the shameful birthday card incident. "It was a busy day in the office," he explained, to guffaws of ridicule. "Ann was not a happy bunny," he admitted. "So I apologised and then ran through loads of things I could buy her to make up for my mistake.

"Do you want a new dress?" I asked.


"A new watch?"


"A car?"


"OK, well just tell me what I can get you. To which she angrily replied, 'A bloody divorce.'"

"I said, 'Sorry, I wasn't thinking of spending that much.'”

"She ended up the next day buying me something that she said went from 0-20 in three seconds – a bloody set of bathroom scales."

Scroll down for more ...

By now the whole room was heaving with laughter, including Lady Sugar. But Sir Alan was only just getting started.

"Last week, we were driving home from the airport, and Ann commented that it was 40 years to the day since we got married. To which I nodded, as you do when driving, and muttered, 'Yeah amazing, eh?'”

"Then there was a silence, as there is when you are driving along. A

few moments later she said to me, 'Do I see a tear in your eyes? Don't tell me you are going soft and feeling sentimental.'”

"I said, 'I am going to tell you something now that I have never told you before. Forty years ago, your father took out his old army pistol, held it to my head and told me if I didn't marry you he would make sure I was banged up in jail for 40 years. So yeah, I am being sentimental – the thing is, I would be getting out tomorrow.'”

On a roll now, Sir Alan rattled through a whole stand-up routine

of jokes, the highlights of which included:

"The younger generation now have a tendency to name their children after places where they felt they were conceived. Like the Beckhams with Brooklyn for instance. I hate to imagine what our kids' names would have been.

My friends Malcolm and Tony could have called their firstborns "Back of Ford Transit" and "Lady Rear of Sunbeam Alpine." And Geoff, your daughter would never have spoken to you again with a name like "Hunched up in Messerschmitt bubble car."

"A genie told me I could have one wish granted but it was to do with what would I wish the most of my wife. I told him there is nothing wrong with my wife, she's perfect and I wouldn't change anything. But he told me that the wish was not transferable and that if I didn't request one it would be a sign of bad luck. So with great reluctance I said, 'Look if you insist and I have to say one thing and I really don't need to but...OK...maybe I would like a wife 30 years younger than me.' 'Your wish is my command Sir Alan,' he said...and the b*****d made me 91."

Then, an amazing thing happened. Sir Alan really did turn all soft and sentimental, and embarked on a genuinely touching defence of his marriage vows.

"Well, 40 years on, and one wonders why and how. I guess it's family values and where we came from. It's no rare thing in both of our backgrounds; our respective parents, my brother and sisters, and indeed most of our family and good friends here are just the same as us – committed to marriage.

"One would like to instil in the younger generation family values, but I guess we live in different times. It would still be nice to see that those younger amongst us will at least look around them and take note."

And then he paused, looked up from his Autocue, looked over to his wife and said: "Now ladies and gentlemen, on to a more serious and genuine note. I feel a bit of a fraud standing up here. It is true that over the past 25 years or so, due to my various shenanigans, the focus of attention has been on me. Quite unfairly so, as behind me is Ann – someone who has always sat in the background and let it all happen. But she has been by my side through good and bad times – fortunately not too many bad times.

"Ann has been a great leveller for me, and kept me on the straight and level. She, of course, wanted me to succeed in whatever I have done,

but I think most of you know that's not where her priorities are. Happy family life always came first, as well as the welfare of others.

"Now here is a message to those young aspiring men here tonight; I would remind you what it is to be a successful man, and what is one's prize possession in life. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with money, academic achievement, or any material things.

"A real successful man puts the love of his wife and children first, a real successful man's greatest position in life is to have a great family. I am lucky enough to have had a wife for 40 years, who gave me three great children, who in turn have given us seven wonderful grandchildren.

"You see, everything I have today is because of the love of that lady and the respect my three children have for the both of us. Ladies and gentlemen thank you for coming, let's have a great night."

I felt the merest suggestion of a lump developing in my throat. It was as moving as it was surprising.

As Sir Alan stepped down, and

the audience erupted into wild applause. I turned to see Lady Sugar blushing with pride. It may have taken 40 years, but the old devil had finally come good.

And not just with his words either. The food, and wine, were magnificent. Who would have thought Sir Alan Sugar would ever lay on a menu containing such delights as Amuse Bouche, and Baked Arctic Black Cod with Bok Choy, all washed down with that fine Italian wine, Amarone Classico 2004 Masi Costasera.

Oh, and if you're wondering

what on earth you give a man

who has £500m in the bank, the answer in my case was a

pair of Arsenal shirts emblazoned

with "Sir Alan, 40" and "Lady Ann, 40." He, of course, is a lifelong Spurs fan.

Bruce Forsyth reappeared, tapdancing, singing, and cracking gags like a man a quarter of his age – and, by now, going down a storm. For a man of 80, he is really quite astonishing and could comfortably lay claim to the title of Most Talented Man in Britain.

"Our final surprise," he declared, "is really something special."

I looked at Sir Alan, who just winked.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sir Elton John!"

Blimey, this was turning into some party.

Elton came out with his band, wished the Sugars a very happy anniversary, and performed some of his greatest hits for more than 45 minutes. As Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting filled the air, I walked over to Sir Alan's table.

"They're playing our song, fancy a dance?"

"Oh do **** off, Morgan, you idiot," came the predictable reply.

I laughed.

It was somehow reassuring

that all this romance hadn't turned Britain's toughest boss completely soft.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now