'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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...