Alan Sugar didn't replace Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice because US public 'don't know who he is'

Lord Sugar says he was considered after Trump lauched his Presidential bid, and 'could have done both shows'

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The Independent Online

After a decade firing hopefuls on The Apprentice, Lord Sugar appeared understandably miffed that his application to apply for the US head office role has been rejected.

Donald Trump’s Presidential bid left a vacancy for a new figurehead for NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. “They did consider me. I could have done both shows,” said Lord Sugar at the launch of the new series of the BBC1 version.

The US public don’t know who I am. That’s why I spend most of my time over there

Alan Sugar

The Amstrad entrepreneur’s candidacy failed the visibility test. “To be perfectly blunt, the US public don’t know who I am. That’s why I spend most of my time over there. I could have done both. The producers decided they wanted someone popular with the US public.”

NBC announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger is to replace Donald Trump. The actor-turned-politician was “the epitome of a global brand in entertainment and business, and his accomplishments in the political arena speak for themselves,” NBC said in a statement. “They’ve got Arnie now. I can’t wait to see what a cock-up they’re going to make,” the peer said.

Claiming that the original “civilian” US version had been ruined by gimmicks – “They started to do silly things” - Lord Sugar returned to the British show and the 18 hopefuls competing for a £250,000 business investment.

Aiding Lord Sugar in his quest are Baroness Karren Brady, who returns as one of Lord Sugar’s trusted advisors, and Claude Littner, the fearsome adviser notorious for tearing apart the candidates’ flimsy CVs at the interview challenge, who replaces Nick Hewer.

Littner, who admits his fearsome interview persona was a performance he created to help the producers, said: “I don’t tend to get emotional about anything. I’m acting as an observer, reporting back to Lord Sugar. I’m not their friend and I’m not telling them what to do.”

Littner cannot resist returning to type in the opening episode, which features a challenge to create and sell a fish lunch after an early-morning visit to Billingsgate market. “It’s a shambles, a disgrace, I’ve never witnessed anything like it,” complains Littner when the team he is observing fail to meet his standards.

Lord Sugar said he hoped to weed out contestants merely seeking to launch their own reality television career – like Katie Hopkins. He believes the show’s ratings will remain strong, where other formats like X Factor, are struggling to maintain viewer interest. 

“The producers know what kind of people are going to be suitable for the show and what criteria I need to find a serious business partner,” he said. “We’re not interested in gimmicks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With respect to X Factor, those gimmicks don’t seem to work.”

The nine men and nine women in this year’s competition, which launches next Wednesday, come from a range of careers and backgrounds - from hairdressing and building to corporate management, events and charities.