'Tantamount to blackmail': Apprentice winner Stella English is the loser over dismissal claim

Lord Sugar vows to crusade against claim culture

Legal Affairs Correspondent

Lord Sugar accused Stella English of being a money grabber who had tried to blackmail him after the former winner of The Apprentice lost her constructive dismissal case against the multi-millionaire today.

In characteristic combative terms, Alan Sugar described the young businesswoman as a “chancer” who had underestimated her opposition.

Ms English, 34, took a case against the Labour peer after resigning from the £100,000-a-year job that she was awarded after winning series six of the BBC1 show in 2010. She claimed the job was a PR sham and she was treated like an "overpaid lackey".

But today, in a damning judgement, tribunal judge John Warren said that Ms English, instead of appreciating a job with enormous scope for advancement, had been more interested in a glamorous role, travelling in private jets.

"This was a claim which should never have been brought,” said Judge Warren.

Describing Ms English’s “outrageous claim” as "tantamount to blackmail", Lord Sugar said today: "She really isn't a nice person. She has done herself a complete disservice here. I don't know who will employ her now, but whoever does needs to take great care."

"I'm afraid she underestimated me and her reputation is now in tatters. I have principles and I am not going to be forced to compromise them, no matter how much time and money they might cost me,” he added.

The millionaire businessman said he would now make it his personal crusade to take on claim culture and such “derisory” cases.

Ms English was given a role with Lord Sugar's IT division Viglen after winning The Apprentice but resigned in May 2011, complaining that she was simply an "overpaid lackey"', an accusation her former boss strongly denied.

The mother of two, from Whitstable, Kent, told East London Tribunal Service that she then felt pressured into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar's internet set-top box company YouView. He, however, said that he had simply helped her out as she had complained of being "desperate for money".

Ms English claimed to the tribunal that during an unscheduled meeting on 28 September 2011, Lord Sugar told her he would not be renewing her contract and she then resigned.

However, the peer insisted there was no long-term position available at YouView following the end of her 12-month contract and that she had already made it clear she did not want to work at Viglen.

In the judgement yesterday, Judge Warren said: “The tribunal believes that the reality was that the claimant had in her mind that having won The Apprentice the role would be much more glamorous and that she would be working alongside Lord Sugar as his assistant. In evidence the Claimant said she knew that previous winners had accompanied Lord Sugar in his private jet!!”

In the tribunal panel's view, it was made "abundantly clear" to Ms English that she would not be working directly under Lord Sugar.

"It was a real job with enormous scope for advancement and learning for the claimant who up until then had no experience at all of project management," the judge said of her post at Viglen, adding: "The respondent (Lord Sugar’s company) had gone out of their way to ensure the claimant was placed in a role at YouView from which she could learn new skills, a job which she agreed to and which she enjoyed doing and she acknowledged she liked the work." 

The judgement added: "There was no dismissal of the claimant - the claimant resigned. Therefore the complaint of unfair constructive dismissal contrary to section 95 Employment Rights Act 1996 fails and is dismissed."

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