Lord Sugar: ‘My business rivals are jealous of The Apprentice’

With the BBC's business reality show ready for another series, the boss speaks out

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Alan Sugar says other British business figures are envious of his role as the star of The Apprentice.

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In an interview with Evan Davis in the latest issue of Radio Times, the outspoken peer said, “When other leaders in industry say ‘[The Apprentice] is rubbish… it’s not real business, blah, blah, blah…’, those comments are really ‘Why didn’t the BBC ask me to do The Apprentice?'”

During a robust to-and-fro with BBC business correspondent and Dragons’ Den host Davis, Lord Sugar also said that the editing of The Apprentice – in particular the seemingly brutal boardroom scenes – made him look nastier than he really is. “What I call the soft or sensitive side of me ends up on the cutting-room floor. It doesn’t put bums on seats,” he said.

The new seventh series of The Apprentice begins next Tuesday at 9pm on BBC1 (followed by the second part the night after, before it returns to its regular Wednesday-night slot), and Lord Sugar explained that some changes have been made to the format this time around.

The prize – previously a six-figure salaried job in one of Lord Sugar’s companies – will now really see the peer put his money where his mouth is. “Basically, I’ve changed the format so the winner enters into a business of their choice with me on a 50:50 basis. I’ll inject £250,000 to kick-start it.”

Some would argue that the prize is at odds with Lord Sugar’s key message this series: that anyone can start a business from scratch and that a good entrepreneur doesn’t need massive investment to be a success.

“Every single task in The Apprentice this series can be achieved by an individual. There’s no fascinating big investor or anything like that. It’s Monday morning, 9am, and here’s £250. This is what you’ve got to do. Get in your white van, come back and show me that in the course of the week you have made £1,500…”

But at today’s press launch of the new series, Lord Sugar revealed he had another more personal reason for changing the show’s format.

“I want to be happy doing the Apprentice again. I don’t want to get bored. I want to be motivated and I want to be enthusiastic about it and this [change] has driven some enthusiasm back into the programme for me.”

It was a bold admission from the belligerent peer – but he refused entirely to answer the final question of the session, a question that had surely been on everyone’s lips, but that only a journalist from Nuts magazine had the – well, nuts – to ask: “Why are there never enough chairs in the Apprentice boardroom?”

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Read the full interview with Lord Sugar in the latest issue of Radio Times – on sale now – and find out why the entrepreneur thinks there are too many civil servants in Whitehall.