Lord Sugar on The Apprentice: You should see the candidates we reject

"If you saw some of the people with the mohican hair painted gold with bones through their nose, you would realise that we do select some credible people"

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The Apprentice can always be relied upon to throw together an eclectic mix of candidates and this year is no different, with series nine’s predictably boastful claims ranging from “I have the energy of a Duracell bunny” to “I take inspiration from Napoleon”. But, as Lord Sugar warned at today’s Apprentice launch, viewers only glimpse the tip of the oddball iceberg…

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Speaking about the business credentials versus the entertainment value of this year’s sixteen contestants, the business mogul revealed, “We get thousands of contestants who apply and I’m very happy with the way they’re selected. I think there has to be a level of credibility amongst the people. You wouldn’t ask that question if you actually turned up to some of the auditions! If you did see some of the people with the mohican hair painted gold with bones through their nose and all that stuff, you would realise that we do actually select some credible people.”

The multi-millionaire also took the opportunity to talk about the future of his business-based reality contest, suggesting it had “longevity” as long as “we continue to make it interesting. 

“Like any product [the BBC] will make a decision on how long it goes on for simply by the reaction to it in the marketplace.”

But Lord Sugar did go on to hit out at the Beeb for axing the show’s junior format late last year after three series: “Interestingly enough, the Young Apprentice has been nominated for the second time at Bafta and the BBC commissioners decided not to recommission it – there’s obviously some logical thinking there… They will have to explain it to me if we pick up the gong next week.”

After twice refusing to answer questions about his 2010 winner Stella English, who recently lost her claim of constructive dismissal against the Labour peer, Lord Sugar went on to affirm the firing and hiring decisions he’s dished out over the past nine series. “I haven’t yet seen anybody who has become a new Branson or Zuckerberg that I’ve let go. I’m sure the media would have taken great delight in pointing out what an idiot Sugar is in letting this person go.”

The self-made business magnate – who started off selling car aerials and electrical goods from the back of a van – also made a point of discussing the role of The Apprentice in the current economic climate. “What I get out of this is the young people who are inspired by this programme and I think that’s the great service it performs.

“The banks are there to help people these days if they have some kind of collateral or track record and that’s life. So for a youngster who wants to start off from nothing, they have to set their goals at a much lower level. They can’t expect a free gift and they can’t expect irresponsible lending as we saw back in the 2004-2005 era. 

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“A quarter of a million pounds is not a lot of money to start a business but it is a lot of money to somebody who’s got a seed of an idea and comes along to me and I’m happy to back them. We’ve demonstrated how it can be done.”