Lord Alan Sugar’s right-hand man Claude Littner tells Radio Times about his TV loves and hates – and whether he’s really as mean as he appears to be on The Apprentice…
What do you watch on TV? Serious business programmes?
I enjoyed Love Island. It’s such a terrible programme and the people are so absurd that it’s compelling viewing. When I wanted to watch it, my wife went off to watch Poldark. I also watch Channel 4 News, Newsnight, Question Time. And Judge Judy.
My wife doesn’t like that, either, so I find myself watching a lot by myself! What I really love is University Challenge, because I’m always amazed by how they can answer the questions in a nanosecond. It’s sensational.
What can you see from your sofa?
We watch TV in our very cosy and comfortable den. My wife sits on one couch and I sit on one on the other side of the room, so I spend a lot of time looking at her, watching TV and looking at my iPad. I like to multitask!
I imagine you have a choice of rooms to watch TV in…
We have another area with a huge couch for 15 people – it has a very nice carpet and is very nicely done up. I refuse to let my grandchildren in there: they’re aged eight, seven and five, and then there are 13-month-old twins.
Blimey. You’re a stern man on The Apprentice. Are you softer with your grandchildren?
I demand the same respect from them that I do from the candidates. They’ve got to call me sir and I question them mercilessly. No, we have a lot of fun, we play football, I tease them a lot.
What do you look for in an entrepreneur on The Apprentice?
You’ve got to find out who is faking it and who is the real deal. With an interview like this, you might come away thinking, “He’s such a super bloke, that Claude,” but if you saw me for 12 weeks in a row you might form a different opinion.
As The Apprentice unfolds, you get an understanding of the candidates and whether they have the physical and mental stamina and will to win.
Which traits turn you off?
I don’t particularly like someone who is overly confident, or someone who is a bit jaded. Those things concern me – you need strength of character, because I can’t emphasise how many new start-ups fail. Then again, you don’t want someone so passionate that it overrides all common sense. Very often you get people on The Apprentice and in life who look as though they’ve got all the right qualities, but their character is such that they could easily lose that ambition when things start going wrong.
Have you always thought like a businessman, even as a child?
Absolutely. My greatest achievement is that I used to buy gobstobbers for a ha’penny and sell them to my school friends for a penny. I used to come home with a pocket full of pennies in my handkerchief. I also had a stamp club, and we sold books of stamps to our friends. I had lots of schemes going! I was always saving my pocket money and trying to invest it to see where I could get the best interest. I knew I’d do something in the business world.
Is there a business you wish you’d started?
Microsoft? Facebook might have been a good one for me to have going on. Amazon. I’d like to have done that one, probably.
The Apprentice will air weekly on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC1 from 3rd October