Entertainment & Arts

Lord Sugar poised for Apprentice shake-up

Image caption The latest batch of hopefuls who are aiming to impress Lord Sugar

Lord Sugar returns for the seventh series of The Apprentice next week, which will be a departure from previous outings.

The entrepreneur's berating bark and cutting quips are also back, along with 16 more candidates who are all hoping to impress the 64-year-old.

This year, more is at stake than before.

"It's no longer a job, it's now a partnership in a business of their own choice," Lord Sugar explains.

The entrepreneur, a screen star thanks to the show, has promised a cash injection of £250,000 into the winning candidate's chosen business, instead of a role at one of his companies.

'Moaning culture'

Lord Sugar says he wanted to shake up the format to show viewers at home that it is "easy" to start a business.

"We've got to stop all this moaning about banks not lending money," he explains.

"I wanted to show the general public that you can start businesses from scratch. And this moaning culture that I refer to is something that needs to be disbanded."

For someone who began his career selling car aerials out the back of a van he bought for just £50, making a profit with little capital is something that he finds very easy.

"That's the message really, that on a Monday morning you go out with £250 and you can come back with £700," says the business mogul.

Now, more than 40 years on, he has an estimated wealth of some £730m and was ranked 85th in the Sunday Times Rich List last year.

And he is keen to give someone else that invaluable kick-start.

However, the business guru has already warned the candidates that he plans to take a back seat in the winning venture.

"Don't expect me to be doing all the work because I'm not looking for a sleeping partner," he says in the first episode.

"I'm not Saint Alan, the patron saint of bloody losers - you can look at it as a bit of an uncivil partnership, so to speak."

'Limp handshake'

This year the list of candidates are the usual mix of overly confident and highly ambitious people.

They include a former estate agent, an accountant and an inventor, who created the world's first curved nail file.

Melody Hossaini, 26, speaks five languages and claims she has worked with former US vice-president Al Gore and the Dalai Lama.

Introducing herself to the audience in the first show, she says: "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the Moon."

Image caption Lord Sugar will be assisted by Nick Hewer (l) and Karren Brady (second right)

Edna Agbarha, a business psychologist, believes "a limp handshake is unforgivable" and Vincent Disneur claims his "very good looks" make him stand out.

But Lord Sugar does not find the candidates' over-zealous attitude to business off-putting.

"They're very opinionated, as you know, but I was like that when I was younger," he smiles.

But wannabe TV presenters need not apply for the show, as Lord Sugar readily admits he has felt let down by some former contestants.

"In the seven years that I've been doing this, I've had people - whose names I won't mention - who have sworn on a stack of Bibles that they are here for the job.

"But TV is a powerful instrument and they get a taste for it. The bottom line is that some slip through the net eventually, but they haven't slipped through the net as far as the winners are concerned."

Karren Brady and Nick Hewer join Lord Sugar again this year to oversee the candidates and watch how they tackle each task.

Brady, who replaced Margaret Mountford in 2009, says this year there is "even more determination" among the contestants.

And Hewer, whose sour facial expressions have become as important as the boardroom showdown, adds: "They are even more deadly serious - because this is a huge prize, when it's almost impossible to raise capital to start a business, here is a godsend.

"It's a life-changing experience and I think they recognise that."

The Apprentice returns on 10 May at 2100 BST on BBC One

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