'Nice girl. Don't do a lot': reality of life as the 'Apprentice' Lord Sugar barely saw
Winner of series making constructive dismissal claim against mogul says she had nothing to do
It is sold to contestants as a life-changing opportunity to learn from one of Britain's most demanding bosses.
But a very different account of the reality of working for Lord Sugar emerged at an employment tribunal yesterday, as a former winner of The Apprentice told how her dream job in his business empire amounted to little more than being an "overpaid lackey".
Stella English told the court that her prize of a £100,000-a-year job was a "sham" and that the host of the show had seen her only five times in 13 months. "No specific duties were allocated to me," she said. "I was provided with a desk and a phone but that was pretty much it."
The claims emerged just days after the angry resignation of the 65-year-old entrepreneur from his £500,000-a-year chairman's role at the YouView television project last week. In a third recent setback, Lord Sugar was told last month that his spin-off show The Young Apprentice was not being recommissioned by the BBC.
Yesterday, he attended East London Employment Tribunal Service to hear Ms English make a claim against him for constructive dismissal. Fighting back tears, she said she was given no guidance about what she was meant to be doing and was "ostracised" by her colleagues, who told her she had taken over another woman's job which had a salary of £35,000.
Ms English, 34, who won the 2010 series of the BBC1 show, was given a role in Lord Sugar's Viglen computer company. But she found herself carrying out basic administrative tasks.
When she sought a meeting with Lord Sugar, he arrived at the Viglen offices with her immediate boss, Bordan Tkachuk, who had already scolded her in an email, copied to her colleagues, saying: "I don't know what you're doing but this ain't how things work around here." When Lord Sugar asked for an assessment of his "apprentice", Mr Tkachuk responded: "Nice girl. Don't do a lot."
Ms English left school with no qualifications but rose to become the only female manager on the trading floor of a Japanese investment bank, with a salary of £82,500. While filming The Apprentice she moved her family from south London to Hertfordshire, where Viglen is based, to show her dedication to the project.
But she felt "marginalised" at Viglen and said Lord Sugar declined to give her support. "He made it abundantly clear that he didn't want to see me," she told the tribunal. In May 2011, she telephoned him to say: "I have tried so hard for so long and it's not working. I'm an overpaid lackey at Viglen. My pride would not allow me to continue doing it."
Lord Sugar offered her a role at YouView, an internet television set-top-box project. But after three months, he told her that he would not be renewing her contract.
The hearing was adjourned until today. Lord Sugar is contesting her constructive-dismissal claim.
Arts & Ents blogs
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Hangover III star Heather Graham: I'll miss playing a sexy stripper because my real life is pretty boring
Hollywood practices random acts of red-carpet kindness
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Cannes Film Festival 2013: And why exactly are vous here?
- 1 Breaking: Soldier killed in Woolwich machete attack named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.