Lord Sugar is as synonymous with The Apprentice as London helicopter shots, the losers’ cafe and the wheelie suitcase walk of shame, having appeared in all 15 series and firing countless candidates.
But with the business tycoon eyeing an exit from the boardroom in the near future, the BBC have some very big shoes to fill.
Two of the most obvious replacements, Sugar’s aides Karren Brady and Claude Littner, have already ruled themselves out.
Here, though, are some potential replacements who have proved they have an eye for business, public fame and a TV-friendly personality – or at least one of the three…
Richard Branson is one of the UK’s most successful ever businessmen, founding the Virgin Group in the 1970s and is now worth an estimated £3.9 billion.
He’s definitely qualified enough for the job, but the main question is whether he’d want to do it – it’s not like he needs the money. Perhaps he’d rather chill on his own private island instead…
The Queen of Shops herself, Mary Portas is best known for her many shopping-themed TV shows, but has also been creative director for Harvey Nichols, launched her own consultancy business and just generally been an authority on all things retail.
David Cameron himself appointed her to review the future of Britain’s high streets in 2011 – if she’s good enough for the government, surely she’s good enough for the boardroom?
Chief Executive of both Ann Summers and Knickerbox, Jacqueline Gold is credited with transforming unconventional family business Ann Summers into the multi-million-pound salesforce it is today by pushing the firm in a female-friendly direction.
She has also featured in various business-themed TV shows – including project managing the winning team on a celebrity version of The Apprentice in 2008, helping to raise over £400,000 for charity. Let’s see this year’s candidates try and do that…
Ricky Martin is remembered for not only having the same name as the Puerto Rican superstar, but also for being a rather good Apprentice candidate, becoming Lord Sugar’s business partner in 2012.
He clearly knows a thing or two about business as his recruitment consultancy firm HRS recently hit £1million in profits, and he was even asked back to The Apprentice as one of the dreaded interviewers. Surely there’s something poetic about Sugar passing on the torch to a former winner?
While Lord Sugar can be terrifying enough, can you imagine the carnage if this dragon was in charge? Duncan Bannatyne has had various businesses over the years, currently heading the Bannatyne’s Health Club chain, and was awarded an OBE for his many, many donations to charity.
He has the TV chops too – he came a very respectable fifth place in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! and has invested in 36 businesses in his 10 years on Dragons’ Den. Surely he could invest in a few more ambitious business plans?
Another Dragons’ Den veteran, this businesswoman-turned-presenter made her name launching pallet distribution company Pall-Ex, which now makes a turnover of £100million.
Since leaving Dragons’ Den in 2012, Devey has presented several programmes for BBC2 and Channel 4 – becoming head honcho on The Apprentice is clearly the next step-up.
The biggest investor on Dragons’ Den, Deborah Meaden has invested in 63 businesses to the value of £3.3million. Not that she can’t afford it – thanks to her family holiday business she is now worth an estimated £40million.
She is also one of the most TV-savvy of the dragons, competing on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013 and regularly appearing as a guest on panel shows and game shows – perhaps it’s time to head up her own reality show?
Michelle Mone – or Baronness Mone now – became a household name after launching her lingerie business Ultimo, as well as co-founding £39m company MJM International.
Despite selling Ultimo in 2015, Mone is still one of the UK’s top businesswomen, becoming one of the highest-earning business speakers in the country and leading a review into entrepreneurship for the David Cameron government.
She was also project manager for the winning team in Comic Relief Does The Apprentice – despite a high-profile row with Patsy Palmer – and has been a panellist several times on The Apprentice: You’re Fired. Surely she just needs to appear on the main show now to complete the set?
One of the original dragons, Peter Jones is one of the most recognisable faces in business television as well as having ventures in mobile phones, leisure, retail and property worth an estimated £485million.
After 14 years on Dragons’ Den and setting up his own TV production company, he clearly enjoys the limelight. And what bigger show in business TV than The Apprentice?
Nearly worth sitting through just to see the look on Lord Sugar’s face, Celebrity Apprentice US winner Piers Morgan would clearly enjoy the power that comes with the boardroom’s head honcho.
Morgan would clearly be keen to prove he could do a better job than his arch-nemesis and Twitter rival Lord Sugar – he did win the Celebrity Apprentice US after all. But then again, he was fired when he was a candidate on the UK edition…
The Apprentice 2019 will kick off on Wednesday 2nd October at 9pm