Alan Sugar: This is blackmail
Published 08/03/2013 | 00:00
Former winner of The Apprentice Stella English is attempting to "blackmail" millionaire businessman Lord Sugar, he has claimed.
The peer is being sued for constructive dismissal by Ms English, 34, who won series six of the BBC One show in 2010. He claims he has no case to answer and that Ms English is after his money.
Giving evidence to the East London Tribunal Service, Lord Sugar said the action taken by his former apprentice was akin to a slap in the face.
Ms English was given a £100,000 role with Lord Sugar's IT division Viglen as her prize but resigned in May 2011 and complained that her role there was that of an "overpaid lackey", something her former boss strongly denied.
Ms English, of Whitstable, Kent, said she felt pressurised into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar's internet set-top box company YouView. However, Lord Sugar said he was trying to help her out as she had complained of being "desperate for money".
He told the tribunal: "I contend I am insulted and disappointed, I am being paid back and having to come here and humiliate myself in front of the national media, but I'm here because I have principles and I'm not just going to pay off people. When her instructing solicitor heard my name, it must have been 'Ding, ding, ding - jackpot'."
Lord Sugar appeared to become agitated at several points, accusing Philippa Jackson, representing Ms English at the tribunal, of "scraping the barrel" with her questioning. The man described on The Apprentice as being the nation's "most belligerent boss" admitted the exchange with Ms Jackson had become heated.
He told her: "I have lost my cool a little bit more today than I normally do. I get very angry when people bring derisory actions against me, I'm afraid to say. I'm not going to succumb to tantamount to blackmail really, to pay your client lots of money, with her solicitor hearing my name and seeing pound signs, hearing 'kerching' signs coming up. I'm here because I believe I have no case to answer and because I trust in the tribunal system and I'm here because I believe this is a classic abuse of the tribunal system."
Ms English had told the tribunal that during an unscheduled meeting on September 28 2011, Lord Sugar told her he would not be renewing her contract and that he told her he did not "give a shit". But rather than his comment being aimed at Ms English, Lord Sugar meant he was expressing his disregard at how the matter might play out in the media.
The hearing, listed to last for seven days, was adjourned until 9.30am on Friday.