Why Lord Sugar's latest reject has at least Ten reasons to be grateful

In Sunday night's Apprentice final, Alan Sugar decided not to hire his top-performing candidate because of her rubbish business plan. Which kind of defeats the point of the whole exercise, doesn't it?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 07 Mar 2013
Admittedly, we’ve been giving The Apprentice a little more space than usual this series (i.e. a bit, as opposed to studiously avoiding its existence). But the entrepreneur-related element (this year, the winner got a £250k investment in a business, rather than the usual £100k-a-year job in a back office trying to find an export market for the Amstrad Em@iler) definitely made it a little more interesting.

For those of you who haven’t spent their last 10 Wednesday nights shouting at their TVs, in the final episode, the remaining candidates were asked to present His Amstradness with their business plans. Of the final two, Tom ‘I’m an inventor, honest’ Pellerau’s idea was a sort of special chair-cum-back pain measuring service (difficult to explain), while executive assistant Helen Milligan had stuck with what she knows and gone for a kind of virtual PA service. ‘We’ll organise your doctor’s appointments for you,’ she stammered. Sadly, his Lordship wasn’t convinced. In the end, he chose Pellerau because, as he explained later: ‘At the end of the day, I’m a product man’.  

Right. But, um, we’re confused. What was the point of the candidates having to make almighty prats of themselves for ten solid weeks’ worth of tasks (no, Tom, Columbus wasn’t British, and he didn’t discover the potato), when Sugar was ultimately going to make his decision based largely on their business plan? Why not just ask for the business plans up front and skip the rest of the series (no, that’s not a serious question). After all, Milligan had been an exemplary candidate, only losing one task (and avoiding the usual back-stabbing). Indeed, as Sugar henchwoman Margaret Mountford (how we’ve missed her) said: ‘I’d employ her in a second’. You might argue that it was a tough choice for Sugar – between a solid, reliable performer in Helen or ‘mad professor’ Tom. But it seems a bit hard to argue, on the basis of the last ten weeks, that the best candidate won.

Still - on the plus side, while Milligan’s idea for a private concierge service might not have won Lord Sugar’s heart, she’s already had an offer from elsewhere: she’s just been headhunted for a £100k-a-year job at private concierge service Ten Lifestyle Management. The firm’s CEO, Alex Cheatle, said he was impressed Milligan (the least offensive candidate by a long way) had ‘seen the potential’ of the sector. When one door closes, and all that…. And perhaps she should be thanking her lucky stars anyway. Whatever did happen to Lee McQueen?

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