Donald Trump is “comical”, Piers Morgan is “boring” and former contestants of The Apprentice who dabble in reality shows are “treated little better than dead meat”.
Lord Alan Sugar certainly pulled no punches as he launched the new series of the popular BBC One show.
Indeed he even promised to get his “boxing gloves ready” for former newspaper editor-turned TV star Morgan – with whom he enjoys public spats on Twitter – when he appears on Good Morning Britain to promote the latest show.
Now in its 13th year, this year’s batch of 18 candidates include a wedding planner who believes she is “superwoman” and a digital consultant who plans to sit back and let people “dig their own graves” before burying them in the boardroom.
The latest hopefuls, who will be assessed through a range of tasks from burger making and robot building to running a doggy day care, also include two Jewish contenders.
Speaking exclusively to Jewish News this week, Elliot Van Emden, 31, from Stanmore, reveals he has “the passion, drive and stamina to go all the way in this process.”
The former pupil of University College School in Hampstead regularly attends Edgware United Synagogue with his family and is known as “Tory boy” to his friends, because he once worked as an intern for David Cameron before he became Prime Minister.
Today the law graduate runs his own firm, advising landlords on how to evict their tenants.
Van Emden reveals: “I have always admired Lord Sugar for achieving everything he has in his lifetime. I believe I am an all-rounder and have a unique set of skills that will enable me to progress all the way to the final.
“Once there, my business plan will blow the other candidates out of the water!”
Meanwhile former King David High School pupil Charles Burns, 24, from Whitefield, Manchester, believes Lord Sugar will be bowled over by his “revolutionary business idea.”
When asked why he decided to throw his hat into the ring, Burns, who attends Prestwich Hebrew Congregation and confesses to having “fingers in many business pies”, said: “I have a great business plan which requires investment to get it off the ground and what better place to both gain investment and experience than on The Apprentice with Lord Sugar?”
They will no doubt want to make a great first impression, but the business magnate, who turned 70 in March, reveals he very rarely judges any candidate so early on.
“I think it’s a dangerous course to form an opinion in the first week,” he explains. “This is the first time I meet these people, I’ve seen little clips of them and read their CVs before they get the opportunity to speak to me.
“You do get first impressions, but I’ve learnt you shouldn’t base decisions on your first impression, that it shouldn’t be a kneejerk reaction. People we thought were absolute no-hopers have gone on to learn from the process.”
Speaking of past candidates, Lord Sugar was asked what he thought of Karthik Nagesan, Jessica Cunningham and Luisa Zissman, who have all appeared on reality shows since their time with The Apprentice.
“They have a little flurry and then they fizzle out, these people. When you see yourself on the TV for 10 weeks and you’re walking around the supermarkets with people recognising you, they have withdrawal symptoms when the show stops. If they are a character, producers of other shows will use them – and then drop them, like dead meat.”
Not one to mince his words, Sugar was no less complimentary about President Donald Trump, who formerly hosted the US-version of The Apprentice.
When asked, as one business magnate to another, to comment about Trump’s management skills, Sugar quipped: “Well he hasn’t had to fire people, they just seem to have left. He has a very simple process – if you don’t agree with me, you’re out. And his communication skills with Kim Jong Un are quite comical, they should make a show over it.”
His frenemy Piers Morgan also appeared in the firing line, with Sugar claiming that it was thanks to him the former Daily Mirror editor was reborn as a television pundit.
He said: “Piers doesn’t stop talking about how he won the American version of The Apprentice, it’s so boring. Susanna Reid is yawning every time he brings it up, that and when he mentions what a good friend he is of Trump – who incidentally hasn’t spoken to him since he was elected.
“It was actually me that launched his television career. He got fired from The Mirror and wanted to do something on TV, so he phoned me up. When he heard Celebrity Apprentice was on, he asked to do it and that was the first time he appeared on television. I also coached him on how to win the American Apprentice.”
Sugar added that he was “proud” of the six fledgling businesses he has so far helped to launch, having invested a whopping £1.5million of his own money.
Their success is down to picking the right winners, says Claude Littner, a former chairman of Sugar’s IT company, Viglen, who alongside Baroness Karren Brady, observes the candidates’ every move throughout the 12-week process.
Speaking about the role she and Littner play in the popular series, Brady adds: “In reality we are the trut9h catchers. When they say it wasn’t me, we can say, well actually it was you. Alan decides who he hires, who he fires. There’s no autocue, no script – it’s just exactly what happens and it all unfolds before your eyes.”
The Apprentice begins on Wednesday, 4 October, 9pm on BBC One.