Tag Archives: Katie Hopkins

Two Birds with One Stone

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One of the things about the Apprentice is that every so often it does throw up a surprise in the boardroom. This week was one of those weeks.

I said last week, that the shopping list task is usually entertaining, and this time was no exception. As has been shown in previous years it is a good test as it not only requires candidates to be able to demonstrate an ability to drive a hard bargain, but also quite often requires a bit of planning to get the specific items that are on the list. The task was made doubly difficult this time around because the teams were sent to Marrakech, where not only would they have to contend with some of the best hagglers in the world, but they’d have the added challenge of working in a somewhat alien culture where the primary languages are Arabic and French.

The programme kicked off with a couple of team swaps, with Jennifer and Michael being transferred to Renaissance and Sara transferred to Alpha. Sometimes the transfers seem to merely be to balance out the numbers, other times there is some method – this time it seemed to be to separate Sara from Jenny after the unfair treatment Sara got last week, but there also seemed to be a definite tactic of putting some of the biggest personalities together.

One of the effects of putting those big personalities together, is that you also got a massive overdose of overconfident arrogance amongst the team – most of them had managed to scrape through a previous task – Jennifer (the self-proclaimed best salesperson in Europe) surviving after giving away exclusive rights, Jenny inexplicably not being called into the boardroom over the greetings card task, and Claire being this years boardroom regular. Alex and Michael have largely managed to keep their heads down, although Michael did get told off in the boardroom last week, and has certainly had his moments over the weeks. Anyway, Jennifer as team leader quickly decided to eschew any real planning, and instead decided to head into the city and wing it, whilst Alpha sat down and planned out what was needed.

Although Alpha pretty nearly blew it after spending literally hours going from shop to shop after an alarm clock, leaving them struggling to find a juicer, at the end of the day the planning, and in particular paying attention to detail is what won through. Alpha returned with a complete list and received no penalties.

Over on Renaissance things were very different. First off Claire continued being difficult to manage, totally messing up negotiations for Alex at one point, and not being quiet when she was asked to be, then the lack of attention to detail started to show. The picked up the wrong colour alarm clock – the list specifically asked for green. They also failed to get the right sort of tagines – the list mentioned a specific, high class brand. But perhaps the biggest error considering that one of the team, Michael, described himself as a ‘good little Jewish boy’ on his CV was that they failed to get a kosher chicken.

When you think about it, the kosher chicken was probably one of the hardest items considering that Morocco is an Islamic country, however with their planning, Alpha discovered that there is a Jewish quarter in Marrakech, so were fairly swiftly able to go there and get exactly the right item. Jenny and Michael however ended up resorting to getting a Muslim butcher to bless one of his chickens.

That wasn’t the worst of it though – one of the other items on the list was a pair of tennis racquets, that had to be strung in the shop, and both teams ended up at the same supplier at about the same time. Not content with just getting the items, Jenny and Michael proceeded to try and bribe the store to not supply the racquets to the other team.

As a result, it was a rather different boardroom – as a result Sir Alan initially had the entire team into the boardroom, and as he said, he could quite happily fire the lot of them. First off though he contented himself with firing Jenny. On previous occasions she has lied or misled in the boardroom, most notably being when she managed to shift blame for the washing task onto Shazia for going back to the house when Jenny herself had told her to do so. There have also been several occasions she has been seem bullying other candidates, Lucinda being a prime example. What had really riled Sir Alan though, if you saw this weeks Jonathan Ross show, is her escape from the boardroom last week, and her confidence that she could get rid of Sara – that perhaps explains why she went before any choices were made. Of course her fate wasn’t helped by the way her lies started to unravel in the cross-questioning in the boardroom. Initially she claimed that she didn’t know what kosher meant – then later on when she started to see things going against Michael she changed her line and seemed to be claiming that she did know but followed along with Michael – this resulted in Michael point blank accusing her of lying. Once she had gone, Alex was sent back to the house, and the remaining three, Jennifer, Claire and Michael faced the final boardroom meeting.

It did look for a while as if Michael was going to go, but ultimately Sir Alan seemed to let him off on the basis that it was youthful exuberance – as a result it was the classic default choice when there are lots of problems on a task, and Jennifer as the team leader got the boot.

One final note though, over on The Apprentice: You’re Fired, Adrian Chiles has not been looking forward to interviewing Jenny after her behaviour on the main programme. I don’t know whether she has had some sort of epiphany having seen herself on TV these past few weeks, or whether an agent has advised her to do so, but it was a very different Jenny Celerier who presented herself to the world on that programme. Her red hair was toned down, and gone too were the power dressing suits. She was also apologetic for her behaviour during the programme, and didn’t talk back when the celebrity panel including Michelle Mone gave her a similar dressing down for her behaviour to the one she gave to Katie Hopkins last year. There was a little bit of an attempt to justify her behaviour, but ultimately she seemed to accept it was wrong. So was she following a game plan during the programme? Or has the Apprentice really changed her – I guess only somebody who knew her before and after could truly say. Suffice to say that she is gone, and both Sara and Lucinda are still there, so perhaps there is a bit of justice in the boardroom after all.

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

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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

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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…

Finding Out a Bit More about the Apprentice Candidates

The upcoming episode of The Apprentice is the traditional penultimate episode where the remaining candidates are put through a series of interviews by a group of trusted friends and colleagues chosen by Sir Alan. However this time around, the viewers have also been given a chance to find out some background to the final five thanks to a special programme that aired over the weekend that talked to their friends and family, had more extensive interviews with the candidates, and also got a good deal of comment from Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford.

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It certainly gave a good amount of background information about the candidates, and in many cases you understand a lot more about how they have got to where they have. Some come from a strong family business background. For example Simon’s father and grandfather have both achieved much in their business lives – Simon is very much following in the family footsteps and Tre started working in his fathers businesses pretty much from childhood. Tre has also fought back from a horrific car crash where the doctor’s told him he had only a 5% chance to walk again, and a 5% chance to have children. He has done both, and is typically direct about his opinion of the diagnosis!

Kristina is another candidate who has had to fight hard to get where she is today. As a teenager living in rural Ireland she fell pregnant and was despatched to a convent in disgrace to give birth, but from there has worked her way through a variety of jobs, bringing up her son to the point where she is now a regional sales manager.

Katie again came over as very determined and driven. Her parents comments stuck out above the others who appeared as both her parents seemed bemused as to where she gets her drive and determination from. She apparently runs to work on occasion, and even ran the New York Marathon whilst pregnant. Of all the candidates, she is the highest paid, apparently earning £90,000 a year as a partner in her own consultancy.

The quiet efficiency of Lohit that has been apparent throughout the series again came through in his interviews, and those with his boss and partner.

Perhaps the most eye opening part though were the comments from Nick and Margaret. They did make clear that Sir Alan will very much make his own choice, and whilst he will ask for their opinion will have no hesitation in disagreeing.

Both seem to regard Katie with concern, saying that she is very good at playing the game, especially in the boardroom. She was also described as dangerous, the way she utterly destroyed Adam in the boardroom being a particular example. Nick said that he felt he knew the real Katie no better now than he did when they started.

They also both seem to think that Sir Alan has a false impression of Lohit, and feel that he doesn’t do himself justice in the boardroom encounters with Sir Alan. Both certainly seemed to regard him as a good candidate, much better than Sir Alan has given him credit for.

Probably the favourite from their point of view seems to be Kristina with them both seeming to think that she has the right mix of attitude and skills to work well with Sir Alan.

However, as they said, it is very much the decision of Sir Alan alone – and we’ve only got to wait a little over a week to find out who he has picked.