Tag Archives: Sir Alan Sugar

Katie Gets Fired (For Real)

Katie Hopkins has certainly been the focus of much of the press attention during the third series of the Apprentice. Having had by far the most press attention before her exit, it has only increased now she has gone, thanks to the fact that she avoided being fired. (Although if you watched the special programme on Sunday, Sir Alan has said he would have fired her anyway.) After her departure she sold her story to the News of the World, using the opportunity to hit back at Michelle Mone who verbally blasted her on You’re Fired, and including a expose of her love life which includes her ex-boss who she mentioned last week (the eight out of ten for ruthlessness), and an affair with a colleague at the Met Office pictures of which turned up in the papers right on time to boost her profile. Certainly there is a strong impression that this is all part of some grand project to carve out a media career for herself – Project Katie.

However, today comes news that perhaps Project Katie is maybe running into problems, with the Met Office where she has worked since September 2006 confirming that she has been fired. Apparently her conduct on the show wasn’t the reason she was fired, but it was an aspect of her review. Starting in the job she was given a years probationary period – the Met Office have chosen to terminate her employment before that period is up. Interestingly they also denied that she was earning £90,000 working for them – so quite where that oft quoted figure came from I don’t know.

So will being fired in real life de-rail Project Katie? I doubt it – she apparently has clocked up £40,000 from the sale of her story, so it will probably give her even more time to work on building her media career…

An Answer from Sir Alan

280px-sugar_and_assistants.jpg

Earlier in the week, when I blogged about Katie’s departure from The Apprentice I posed the question as to whether, if Katie hadn’t have withdrawn, he would have sacked her. At the time I thought we probably wouldn’t have got an answer, but tonight, in a special programme Sir Alan reviewed his reasons for despatching each candidate, and confirmed that had she not gone, he would have fired her anyway despite having said that she was through to the final earlier on.

The impression you got from his comments about Katie was that firstly he didn’t have an issue with her being ruthless as long as she could do the job. However he also said that he had concerns about her reasons for being in the programme, but it seemed was allowing himself to be convinced by her because of his belief that she was suitable. He fully admitted that it could have been one of his biggest mistakes had she got through.

Much of the rest of the programme covered old ground in terms of his reasons for removing certain people, although there was some interesting expansion of his reasons, and indeed he was surprisingly complimentary about some of the fired candidates. Some candidates though he was not. He said that by far the most deserved firing of the entire series was Paul for the infamous French trip. He again said that he expected a lot more from Paul thanks to his Sandhurst training, which I found interesting as he does seem to regard it as a plus. (Bear in mind that Katie also has a Sandhurst training.) From my experience of having worked with ex-military people, having been trained by the army doesn’t make you good in a corporate environment, nor does it make you bad. The two environments are different. Certainly whilst there are obviously skills that are beneficial, you can’t run a team of business staff as you would an army unit, what you are looking for is someone with the adaptability to take those skills that are relevant and use them, but equally you could find that from a multitude of other sources. Sandhurst is there to produce good officers for the army, nothing more.

The other interesting moment in the programme was the discussion about Naomi who many, including myself thought was unfairly dismissed when it was obvious that Simon had messed up completely. From Sir Alan’s comments tonight, it seems pretty clear that whatever had happened on the task, Naomi would have gone, and based on his swift exit the next week I expect Lohit would have gone had the other team lost – it clearly wasn’t about the performance on this task by this point. Sir Alan had by this point decided that Naomi was the most expendable because he was more keen on having Tre and Simon move forward. As a result Simon could, and did make a massive mess of the whole task and was let off…

So any clues as to who might win? Not a chance – he described both Simon and Kristina as eminently employable. We’ll just have to wait until Wednesday to find out who he picks.

Weeding Out the Player

katie-real-main_358×265.jpg

All the way through this series of the Apprentice, Katie has carved herself out a memorable role as the villain of the piece. Efficient and ruthless she gave a number of memorable one-to-one interviews including wishing one other candidate would get run over, before absolutely destroying him in the boardroom. She also managed to insult pretty much the whole of the UK at one time or another too, again with acerbic pieces to camera. Tonight she provided a moment that will make her truly unforgettable – she became the first and only candidate to resign from the Apprentice.

This week was the interview stage, when three trusted business colleagues interview the remaining five candidates and report back to Sir Alan with their impressions. Of the five candidates, the one to come out best was clearly Kristina. All three of the interviewers viewed her as a safe pair of hands, with a good personality – an all round strong candidate. At the other end of the spectrum was Lohit, who I’ve always regarded as quietly efficient, he fell down precisely because he was quiet, lacking the sparkle of the other four, very much a ‘nice guy but…’ response.

With Tre, his attitude again led him in to trouble. With one interviewer the interview never seemed to progress beyond an argument over the assertion by Tre that he was an international businessman. Ultimately Tre was just unemployable.

Simon again provoked a mixed response. The interviewers felt that he had drifted since being made redundant from a career in merchant banking. One of them had talked to a tenant in a property that Simon owned and who absolutely slated him. Another described him as a serial underachiever, saying that with his degree and obvious intelligence (he is a member of MENSA) he should be doing a lot better than he is. After the mauling in last weeks task he seemed visibly crushed under the criticism, and on at least one occasion was told off by an interviewer for not making eye contact. The definite opinion was that on paper he had potential, but that it was a potential unrealised. Having said that, he appeared to appreciate that. With one of the interviewers he said that he would happily only take half of the pay that was being offered for the first year in order to prove himself to Sir Alan.

Finally there was Katie. She of all the candidates was earning the most currently, and is a partner in her own business. All the interviewers latched on to her ruthlessness – at one point she rates the fact that she set out to get another woman’s husband for herself ‘because she wanted him’ as eight out of ten. This ruthless streak seemed to be ringing alarm bells with the interviewers. All thought that she would be capable of heading up one of Sir Alan’s companies, but two were obviously concerned, and even the third when pressed questioned whether, if she won, she would move from her family home in Devon to Brentford, and whether she was only in it to win.

So this left Sir Alan with three possible choices for two places. Kristina who definitely seemed to be a safe pair of hands, Simon who is a significant gamble and has messed up spectacularly, and Katie who could do the job, but who there were question marks over.

The final boardroom, it has to be said was amazing to watch. Essentially Sir Alan had to find out if Katie was only in it to win, and not for the job. He kicked off with talking to Kristina, making generally positive noises, but not giving her a definite yes or no. After that Lohit was despatched fairly swiftly.

Then he moved on to the key person in all of this – Katie. He talked about her ruthlessness (she denied that she had stepped on anybody to get to this stage) and then questioned why she wanted the job and whether she would move from Devon. He’d asked the same question of Kristina, but it was noticeable that he pushed the point a lot more with Katie. He also really reinforced his position that it was about the job and that he wanted someone committed – he didn’t want someone who was only in it for the win, and would exclude someone who wanted the job. He pushed and pushed, until she didn’t really argue back, although she still maintained she wanted the job. For a moment I thought he was going to fire her, but he didn’t, he told her she was definitely in, with three other candidates still left. Considering how Katie has played the game in the boardroom before, at times even flirting with Sir Alan to manipulate events, this was an interesting reversal. This proved to be very much a Sir Alan game – he had questions over her commitment, hammered her down and questioned her motives, until she looked like she thought she was beaten, but all of it sowing the seeds to establish if she really wanted the job.

From Katie he moved on to Tre, picking over his arguments, and highlighting how argumentative he had been throughout the programme before sending him home too. All this time Katie had been left. The other two were tense, Simon especially looked beaten – certain that Kristina would be picked. Katie had said before that she wouldn’t lie to Sir Alan, but in the previous discussion had been pushed to say that she was ready to move, herself and her life to London. She had even claimed that her parents would be happy to move away from Devon. Rather than focusing on the other two Sir Alan focused back on Katie:

“If you don’t mind, I’ll flip back to you Katie. You don’t look like a lady whose just been told she’s entered the final. So it may be that because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself, and because you don’t want to make a fool of me, that you might want to concede that now, and let these other two go forward.â€?

And then she conceded, and then she went.

Sir Alan had backed her into a corner. It is what everybody suspected, but Sir Alan proved it clearly tonight, and ensured that he got two people who wanted the job at the end. She obviously didn’t look like someone who had won, if she hadn’t have stood down, would he have changed his mind and fired her? I don’t know, we never got to find out. The move was executed such that she fell on her own sword rather than be pushed.

As Sir Alan said to the remaining two, he thought that all three were very employable, but that what they had just seen was somebody who wasn’t willing to give him the commitment he wanted. You can see the whole sequence on the Apprentice Web Site.

Interestingly Katie is painting it as a victory. In her interview on the Apprentice site she states both Simon and Kristina are poor choices, stating that she believes that she would have won. In her taxi interview – which wasn’t shown but is online – she describes them as ‘thirsty little muppets’. By resigning as she did she is trying to portray herself as nobly standing aside to let two lesser candidates have a chance. However Sir Alan very firmly established the people who wanted the job, rather than wanted the glory. He weeded out the player.

What is interesting about all of this is that Katie seems very much to be acting as if she has created a good stepping stone to being well known in business through the show, but has she built a good reputation – or notoriety? She has insulted a multitude of people, and the level of ruthlessness she has shown has hardly endeared herself to a large number of people, certainly a number of the business people on the The Apprentice: You’re Fired programme have been quite clear that they wouldn’t hire her ever. Indeed during the programme tonight I thought she was going to come to blows with Michelle Mone, one of her most vehement critics. Thankfully there was a significantly sized table in between the two women. Has she blown her reputation? Only time will tell.

As to the remaining pair, which one is going to get it? Based on his previous comments, I think that Kristina is the one. When he despatched Ghazal he said he was looking for someone well formed to which he can hand over a task rather than someone who he needs to mould, and Kristina fits that bill. Having said that, this is Sir Alan Sugar. He clearly has a soft spot for Simon, despite his goofs and the concerns raised by the interviewers – so I won’t be totally surprised if he takes a gamble and goes for Simon instead…

Teflon Simon

Mark Frith on The Apprentice: You’re Fired summed up the result of last night’s episode of the Apprentice pretty well:

“I’ve never, in any series of the Apprentice seen anyone fail so completely and utterly as Simon did tonight, and not get fired.â€?

The basic task was simple. Sir Alan had lined up an hour in prime time for each team with shopping channel Ideal World. Each team split into a single and a pair and selected two products for the other part of the team to sell live on air whilst the others were in the gallery producing, and the winner was the team that produced the most cash. As always they had a wide variety of products to choose from ranging from low value high volume to high value low volume items, although Sir Alan explicitly advised against gambling on a high value item to get through the task. He also mixed up the teams again, swapping Lohit and Naomi. The project managers for the task were the only two candidates to have been on the same team all the way through, Kristina for Stealth and Simon for Eclipse.

simon-on-trampoline_358×265.jpg

Neither team can really walk away from the task feeling proud – Ideal World quite literally lost thousands of pounds over the two hours, with both teams bringing in barely a tenth of the sales that the channel would usually expect. More than that their appearance actually produced complaints from the viewers of the channel! If anything it proved that selling on TV is a lot more difficult than one might expect. Both teams had an eclectic mix of products, and exhibited various levels of ineffectiveness over the selling ranging from just appearing generally uncomfortable, through unintentional comedy in product demonstrations through to Kristina who in the process of struggling with demonstrating a mop actually swore live on air. Ultimately though it was Simon and Eclipse who sold least, and it was Simon, Tre and Naomi who ended up in the boardroom facing Sir Alan.

It is worth going over quite what a mess of the task Simon actually made. Like Kristina he decided to select himself as the single, and pair up the other two team members. Whilst that put Naomi who was by far the strongest presenter of the three with Tre who for once admitted that he wasn’t good at something, it was a significant mistake when it came to guiding his team members from the gallery as they tried to sell the items he had selected, as he dried totally. Indeed on the live show the professional producer from Ideal World was looking significantly concerned at his lack of interaction.

However his lack of interaction paled into insignificance against the product choices. Naomi and Tre selected some pads to allow craft fans to easily produce decoupage, and an exercise trampoline, whilst Simon ignored the advice of Sir Alan and picked a hair-removal kit, and a luxury folding wheelchair. When the time came around to present the items, Naomi and Tre seemed to have tried to make the best of the choices they had been given and understand their products. Simon however seemed to be trying to wing it. A staff member at the channel expressed concern that Simon had made no effort to understand what decoupage actually was, and had done about the same amount of work to understand the trampoline – and it showed. Simon failed to sell any trampolines at all, and the decoupage pads didn’t do much better. Naomi and Tre did slightly better, even managing to sell two of the wheelchairs, netting more than half of their final total.

On that basis, it seemed pretty clear who was going to go.

Simon had explicitly ignored Sir Alan and gambled on a high value item, he had been hopeless as a producer, and failed to sell when on screen – alongside that he provided some unintentional laughs whilst demonstrating the trampoline – you can watch the trampoline selling for yourself below… (and watch out for a classic Tre moment in there too.)

On the other hand Naomi and Tre had, despite the products Simon had landed them with managed to sell two expensive wheelchairs, and brought in the bulk of the money on the task.

Also against Simon was the fact that throughout all the previous weeks he had never been in the board room which usually means that the candidates aren’t adept at defending themselves, plus the fact that he was project manager of the whole sorry affair. When he walked in, you could see from his face that he expected to go – he knew he had messed up.

However that wasn’t the way it went. When criticised over selecting the wheelchair, Simon countered that he thought that there would be housebound people watching who would be interested in the product. Whilst due to it’s high cost it wasn’t exactly an impulse buy, two people had bought. Sir Alan seemed to give Simon credit for this, but no credit at all to Naomi and Tre who had managed the sale. When it came to the fact that Simon had failed to sell any trampolines, or many of the decoupage pads it wasn’t down to SimonNaomi and Tre were to blame there too for poor product choice. When it came down to the firing, Simon didn’t even figure, it was Tre for moaning too much, and Naomi for her poor product choice and unimpressive performance previously. Tre seemed to narrowly escape, resulting in Naomi getting the boot.

I didn’t agree, neither did any of the panel, nor most of the audience on the Apprentice: You’re Fired – it was an amazing decision. I guess ultimately it comes down to the fact that by this point Sir Alan is very much picking based on the ultimate job he has for the winner, but still it was incredible that Simon survived.

Next week though, comes the interviews, where the remaining five are reduced to the final two. Often it is this round that throws up the biggest changes, with someone who has done comparatively well up to now heading out the door – Paul last year being a prime example. In terms of who will get through, despite her faux pas this week, I think Kristina has a good chance. I still think that Lohit and the way he quietly and efficiently gets on with things is great, but he may well be too quiet to get through. The mauling that Tre got this week seems to make him an outside bet, however the survival of Simon certainly implies that Sir Alan thinks a lot of his abilities. That just leaves Katie. The problem with her is that she is very two-faced. Yet again we had a fired candidate this week who regarded her as a friend, until she saw footage of Katie comparing her to a golden labrador

How to Loose by 97p

tx7-adam-main_358×265.jpg

Last week on The Apprentice, Adam in part survived the boardroom with a plea to let him be project manager the next time to prove himself. True it gave him one more chance, but unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off, and he found himself on the loosing side by a grand total of 97p.

This weeks task was a Sugar favourite where each team is given identical lists of items, and have to obtain them for the cheapest amount possible. As a task it tests a variety of skills including negotiation and time management.

It is also covered by some fairly strict rules. Firstly, the only source of information is the Yellow Pages – so specifically you can’t go looking things up on the internet, even thought the teams have internet capable smart-phones. Secondly, you have to negotiate the price down, you can’t go with the initial asking price. Thirdly, if you fail to obtain one of the items, the team will be fined £50 plus the estimate value of the item. Finally, if any members of the team return to the boardroom after the 6pm deadline, the team will be fined £50.

Both teams picked up fines, Eclipse for failing to negotiate on a price – for one item the trader refused to meet their price, but offered them a batch of seconds at a fixed price which they accepted, and Stealth for failing to obtain one of the items. Bear in mind that they did have a supplier for the item, but couldn’t get there and back in time for the 6pm deadline. Of course if they had remembered the rules and realised that the fine would be less for arriving late, they would have won… Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Ironically the reason that they left it so late was because of the item on the list to catch the teams out – Nigella Seeds. They are known by a number of different names, and with a few moments on the internet you can look up the different names, however without the internet both teams were left scratching their heads as to what they actually were. There were some truly bizarre suggestions put forward, including Adam suggesting that they were something to do with artificial football pitches!

Ultimately though, once it was clear that stealth had lost, it was a foregone conclusion that Adam was going to go, as this was his fourth successive visit to the boardroom. Unfortunately I think this was a little unfair. Whilst the first and fourth times were due to him being project manager, the intervening two visits were as much to do with Adam not being liked by the other candidates. This came out again in the boardroom with Katie in particular making it absolutely clear that she wanted him gone. As before, she saved the really venomous comments for the one-to-one interviews, this weeks alienating a large part of the country by saying that Adam should head back to the north – snobbish? Certainly seems that way. There was also the interesting alliance of Katie and Kristina who put aside their differences as far as Adam was concerned in order to get rid of him. Quite how long the truce will last remains to be seen.

Interestingly, even though it was pretty clear that Adam was likely to go, not least for the decision not to go and get the Nigella Seeds, it did seem like there was a possibility that Sugar could give Katie the boot instead. This is the first time she has been in the boardroom, and if she is even half as unpopular as she is with most of the general public, I definitely think she’ll be on the way out – Sugar made a number of comments about needing to think about how the winner will fit into his organisation – certainly being too forceful has been shown in the past to thoroughly put him off.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a change of tack next week, with an advertising task. A repeat of the hilarity of the private jet task last year? We’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, as Adam has said on every appearance since he was sacked, he is looking for a job – check out his website at www.adamhosker.co.uk.

Parlez-vous anglais?

recap-paul-kristina-main_358×265.jpg

I mentioned last week that the trailer for this weeks episode of The Apprentice looked entertaining, and it did not disappoint.

The task was simple, buy a selection of speciality British food’s from a list of small independent suppliers given to the teams, load them into the back of a van, and head over to a farmers market in France to sell the produce. Included in the list of approved suppliers was Makro, to give the teams somewhere to pick up miscellaneous bits and bobs, to equip the stall.

Needless to say, there were some gotcha’s amongst the suppliers to catch the unwary – product lines that wouldn’t sell. For example Eclipse picked tea as one of their lines – certainly English, but since the French are a nation of coffee drinkers, not the best choice. Stealth on the other hand went for home-made sausages, and then had a big discussion about cheese. Kristina was adamant that it would be a bad idea, as the French had hundreds of their own varieties. The matter seemed settled until team leader Paul stopped off at Makro to get a frying pan and a burner to cook the sausage samples – as team leader he made an executive decision, and came away with a cheap gel burner, and 30kg of Makro mass-produced cheese… The girls on the team in the other car, even Paul fan Katie looked less than pleased when they were told.

It proved to be a disastrous decision. The gel burner was hopeless, and failed to cook anything. It wasn’t until Kristina used her initiative and asked a local restaurant for help that the samples were cooked, and the sausages started to sell. Paul and Katie ended up going around local businesses trying to shift their stock, sometimes at cost price. The highlight of those sequences has to be the point where they tried to sell pork sausages to a Hallal butcher. In the end, half of the stock of cheese, and large amounts of the sausages were just dumped in the bin at the end of the day. That along with a rather expensive banner that Adam managed to order resulted in an overall loss for the task – something that didn’t please Sir Alan one bit…

Over on Eclipse, everything seemed to go smoothly. After quietly getting on with things over the previous weeks, Sir Alan had appointed Lohit as project manager, and his calm demeanour continued in the new role. On paper he had the most explosive group containing both Tre and Jadine, but he seemed to handle it well. Tre was kept under control, and as in the past couple of weeks didn’t seem to be causing many problems with the other candidates, just providing a number of entertaining comments to camera. Jadine at one point did kick off after a disagreement with Simon, however Lohit took her aside and dealt with it, and the team worked well.

On Stealth, Sir Alan had also appointed someone who had just been getting on with things – Paul an ex-army man. Unfortunately, Paul seemed to be running his team like the army, the cheese thing being one of many examples when he effectively just gave orders. This in particular caused friction with Kristina culminating in the two of them having a stand up row over the price of the sausages in the middle of the French market.

The choices that Paul made for the final boardroom weren’t a surprise. Adam came back ostensibly for the screw up with the poster – but it was as much because with two successive previous visits to the boardroom, he looked like a weak candidate. Kristina came back because she had argued with Paul. Kristina was effectively safe, as it was clear that she had picked up Paul on his errors, but had been ignored. She had also used her initiative to enable the sausages to sell. Adam nearly blew it purely because he was in for the third time in a row. However once Kristina and Adam grumbled about the relationship between Paul and Katie, something that the press has picked up on recently. At this point Sir Alan has heard nothing about the ongoing relationship (although after week 2 he did split them up) and whilst he says he doesn’t have a problem with it, he does seem to believe that Paul hasn’t brought in Katie because the two are an item – to my mind she didn’t do anything to warrant being in the board room though, although she continued with the bitchy comments about the other candidates in the one-to-one interviews.

After all that, it seemed a pretty well fore-gone conclusion that Paul was gone, however Sir Alan seemed to hover an awfully long time over whether to get rid of Adam instead. It wasn’t until afterwards you found out why. It seems that Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick all had Paul picked out as a potential winner – for what reason I don’t know, as from what I can see he hasn’t really done anything to warrant it aside from keep his head down up to now. The only point he particularly figured was back in week 3, when he and Katie wasted a load of time trying to sell the team as a mobile disco whilst most of the rest of the team were working on gardening.

So six weeks in, are there any likely candidates? I have to say that I was impressed by how Lohit handled the team, but he may well be too quiet for Sir Alan. Tre is providing ongoing entertainment, but whilst he may stay in a long time, he is too much of a loose cannon to be the final winner. Katie is getting a lot of attention, but her ruthlessness has made her the main villain in this series, and I suspect when someone does eventually bring her to the board room she may get a bumpy ride from Sir Alan. I’m certainly starting to think that Kristina may have the right balance this time around – of course I could be totally wrong.

Next week is the classic shopping list task, when the teams are sent off to buy a series of items at the best possible prices. Similar tasks in previous series have proved quite entertaining – it will be interesting to see if the teams this year try to push the time limit though…