Alan Sugar on Katie Hopkins and Luisa Zissman: 'They'd go to the opening of an envelope if they got an invitation'

The British businessman criticises his former Apprentice contestants

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Lord Alan Sugar has condemned Apprentice contestants who used the programme to launch their own celebrity careers.

The Apprentice judge said winners of the series, which returns for its 10th run this month, had all made their mark in the business world.

But he admitted his annoyance that some candidates like Katie Hopkins, now an opinionated newspaper columnist and Luisa Zissman, who competed in Celebrity Big Brother, appeared more interested in publicity than in business.

Lord Sugar told Radio Times: “They’d go to the opening of an envelope if they got an invitation. They have their Andy Warhol moment, thinking it’s going to make them famous, but very few have actually succeeded. Before long they’re of no interest to anybody.”

The entrepreneur also attacked wealthy Britons who leave the country or shelter their wealth in schemes designed to avoid paying tax.

Lord Sugar said he pins copies of the cheques he has paid the taxman on his office wall. One, from 1989, is for £48,239,250.

He told the magazine: “I could have sodded off to Monte Carlo or the Bahamas but we paid the money in cold blood. You’ve got to pay tax, it is as simple as that. I don’t want to live a life dodging taxmen.

“I could have put my money in tax-avoidance schemes or hedge funds, but the only hedge fund I’ve ever invested in is a Black and Decker.”

Lord Sugar’s Amstrad computer firm was worth £1.3bn in the late 80s but he rejected the chance to go to the US to try to build a rival to Apple. “I’m a family man. You can’t just uproot and go to America. I’m English and very proud to be English.”

He denied that his plain-speaking approach to employees and Apprentice candidates had ever tipped over into bullying.

“It is not bullying to speak your mind. I don’t flower my words. If someone is useless, I’ll tell them. If someone has done a good job, I’ll also tell them.”

“You have to look at my history. People would have reported it if lots of people were taking me to tribunals. Speak to my employees. I’ve got people here who have worked for me for 35 to 40 years. They work for me because they enjoy working for me.”