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Sugar: A home truth is not bullying

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Lord Sugar says he isn't a bully in The Apprentice boardroom

Lord Sugar says he isn't a bully in The Apprentice boardroom

Lord Sugar says he isn't a bully in The Apprentice boardroom

The Apprentice boss Lord Sugar has denied that his abrasive style amounts to bullying contestants on the BBC One show.

The new series of The Apprentice begins later this month, with Lord Sugar returning alongside his no-nonsense sidekicks Karren Brady and Nick Hewer.

Lord Sugar, 67, has famously given some of the show's failing contestants a dressing down over the years, but the tycoon insisted that he was not being cruel.

"They've not just arrived from the planet Mars. They know what they are letting themselves in for," he told Radio Times magazine.

"They haven't been banged up in some Siberian prison somewhere. I make it perfectly clear to them when I see them for the first time in the boardroom that if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen - it is as simple as that."

He dismissed the suggestion that he was plain-speaking to the point of being bullying, saying: "You have to look at my history.

"People would have reported it if lots of people were taking me to tribunals. Speak to my employees. I've got people here who have worked for me for 35 to 40 years. They work for me because they enjoy working for me."

"We don't bully people here and I'm not getting involved in discussing that with you."

The multi-millionaire added: "It is not bullying to speak your mind. I don't flower my words. If someone is useless, I'll tell them. If someone has done a good job, I'll also tell them.

"Identifying a truth is not bullying... No one likes to be told a home truth."

The tycoon told the magazine that he often tells contestants "in a very nice way" that they are not ready for the show but that "t here are others who both I and the audience are very annoyed with, and who perhaps deserve a bit of bringing down to earth."

Some former candidates, such as Katie Hopkins, who joined I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and Luisa Zissman, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, have chased the spotlight since their time on The Apprentice.

Lord Sugar criticised former contestants who want fame, saying: "They'd go to the opening of an envelope if they got an invitation.

"They have their Andy Warhol moment, thinking it's going to make them famous, but very few have actually succeeded. Before long they're of no interest to anybody."

Previous winners have included last year's victor Leah Totton, who set up a cosmetic clinic with Lord Sugar, as well as Tom Pellereau, who enjoyed success with his curved nail file, and Lee McQueen, who rang in sick on his first day in the new £100,000 job and no longer works for the tycoon.

Last year Stella English, who won the 2010 series, lost her claim of constructive dismissal against Lord Sugar.

The businessman, famous for telling candidates "You're fired!", defended his record with past winners, saying. "The last three candidates are in business with me and they're doing very, very well. Some of the others worked for me for a couple of years and they've gone on to work in other things."

The tycoon, who displays on his wall cheques that he has presented to the taxman, said that he was proud to pay his taxes.

"I could have sodded off to Monte Carlo or the Bahamas but we paid the money in cold blood," he said.

"You've got to pay tax, it is as simple as that. I don't want to live a life dodging taxmen.

"I could have put my money in tax-avoidance schemes or hedge funds, but the only hedge fund I've ever invested in is a Black and Decker."

Series seven winner Pellereau said that despite his huge success with his nail care products, Lord Sugar "can still be pretty hard on me".

"The other day I presented what I thought was a brilliant idea to him in a board meeting and he thought I was joking. He said: 'Are you mad? This is utter rubbish!'," he told the magazine.

Dr Totton, who set up a cosmetic clinic with Lord Sugar, admitted that the multi-millionaire had turned down her offers to give him Botox.

Meanwhile, Tre Azam, from series three, complained: "During filming, we were told we'd be taken for dinner and get to sit with him. I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask him questions and learn from him."

Azam, who was convicted in 2008 of falsely claiming housing benefits, added: " But he spent the entire time telling us how much money he'd made and how many planes he's got."