In last night’s penultimate episode of the Apprentice, there was a notable absentee from Sir Alan Sugar’s panel of ‘expert’ interviewing chums: property developer Paul Kemsley, who’d become known as the pint-sized tycoon’s ‘rottweiler-in-chief’. And it turns out there’s a very good reason for that: Kemsley’s £500m property company Rock went into administration last week, with the man himself apparently severing all ties with the firm. After all, it wouldn’t do for SurAllun to have this year’s desperate wannabes quizzed by a businessman who doesn’t have a business any more…
It seems that Kemsley was forced to call in administrators PwC last Thursday, after failing to arrange a rescue deal for Rock. Last year Kemsley’s property empire (which is split between the UK, the US and Turkey) was thought to be worth about £500m, with the Sunday Times Rich List putting his own wealth at about £180m. But the collapse of commercial property prices put paid to that. And to make matters worse, he also made a huge and extremely ill-judged bet that Lehman Brothers would survive last September (which ultimately led to a legal battle with a spread betting firm), costing him more millions. A financing deal with HBOS seemed to have kept the wolf from the door, but the reprieve was only temporary. Now the administrators are in, and Kemsley is out.
Of course it’s always sad to see any UK business go under, or to see an entrepreneur fall victim to the recession. However, given the rather graceless persona he cultivated on the Apprentice, there’s bound to be a bit of schadenfreude around at Kemsley’s sudden fall from grace. For instance, we still remember him telling last year’s winner Lee McQueen to do his infamous ‘reverse pterodactyl’ impression, and then having a go at him for doing as he was told – an unfair and mean-spirited trick (which we hope other interviewers haven’t copied). And others will argue that building up a property empire in the last few years hasn’t involved much skill – just some gullible bankers with loose purse strings (no wonder he was so friendly with HBOS).
Kemsley was quietly replaced for last night’s episode, in which Sugar picked feisty Yasmina and android-like Kate for the final showdown. Now they get to compete for a job in – that’s right – Sir Alan’s commercial property empire. Maybe Kemsley ought to sign up for the next series?
In today's bulletin:
Bank of England holds rates as house prices soar
Football: the UK's most recession-proof business?
Apprentice star Kemsley out as property empire goes bust
London calling for Warner Music boss
The incredible shrinking Mars bars