Lord Alan Sugar could quit The Apprentice, says sidekick Nick Hewer

Countdown host says Sugar's involvement in the show could be 'to the detriment of his other business interests'

The Apprentice host Lord Sugar could quit the show after appearing in just one more series, his sidekick Nick Hewer has said.

The BBC1 show, in which candidates compete to go into business with the tycoon, is currently enjoying its ninth series.

Hewer, 69, told the Radio Times: "He won't get bored. But he is all over this show for 12 months of the year, every task, every aspect of the scheduling, marketing, and press - everything...He's very devoted: possibly, I think, to the detriment of his other business interests.

"I wouldn't be surprised if at some point after 10 years he said, 'Actually lads, I think I've done my bit."'

The Countdown host added: "Lord Sugar wanted to do this because he had been travelling up and down the country for the then Chancellor Gordon Brown, meeting youngsters at universities and schools, telling them about the importance of business.

"He's delivered that in spades. He's done his duty. I'm only speculating, I've got no idea. He might say he's only going to do 11 or 12 series, but then find it hard to walk away because it's his baby."

Hewer said that the BBC would be foolish to continue the show, which has spawned successful series around the world, without Lord Sugar.

"People would pay to do that job. But as a broadcaster, the BBC would have a really tough decision whether or not to rest this programme," he said.

"If Alan Sugar says, 'Look, I've done my 10 years,' or whatever it is, if he thinks he's done his bit, I think they would be crackers to run it the next year with someone else.

"Because it's his show, and he's made such an impression that you would need to be a suicide merchant to take it on after Sugar in the next year.

"Rest it for three years, let the memories dim, and then bring it back. But, you know, somebody will say, 'Are you mad? We want those eight million viewers,' or whatever it is. It's a huge show. Nobody wants to say 'cheerio' to such a successful format. That will be a hard decision."

Underwear entrepreneur Michelle Mone said that she would be happy to take on the straight-talking multi-millionaire's role if he did decide to leave.

"Would I consider throwing my hat in the ring? It's a show that I've always loved, and I suppose it would be great for a woman to do it!," she said.

"It's been very positive to bring business to the limelight. The Apprentice has made business sexy. When I grew up, nobody knew what an entrepreneur was."

Lord Sugar later denied he was planning to walk away from the show, saying: "As long as the BBC want to screen The Apprentice I will do it for them."

PA

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