Lord Sugar’s track record with his The Apprentice winners definitely comes under the ‘mixed bag’ category.
Many dream of going into business with the quick-witted boss, but sometimes it becomes a nightmare.
Initially the candidates were competing to get a £100,000 a year job at one of his many companies, but after a heated clash that left one winner jobless he changed the prize.
Nowadays the hopefuls are trying to secure a whopping £250,000 investment in their business for a 50% stake, as well as Lord Sugar’s own guidance and help from his team of experts.
A handful have gone on to build empires bringing in millions, while a few have parted ways with the business mogul – and two winners even started dating for a while.
Before we find out whether Kathryn Burn or Harpreet Kaur is crowned this year’s winner, here is a look at what happened to the previous champions.
Carina Lepore – Series 15 (2019)
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The most recent winner of The Apprentice was Carina, who got a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar for her artisan bakery business in 2019.
She had plans to rival Greggs with her Dough Bake House chain – and business was booming a year later.
As well as her original bakery in Herne Hill, Carina opened a new branch in Beckenham in September 2020.
Lord Sugar himself opened the new family run bakery and helped cut the ribbon to open the new store.
“What attracted me to Carina as the winner is that this business has potential. Food will always be good,” said Lord Sugar on This Morning.
“I think Carina will concur that throughout this pandemic, the shop has been busy. It’s given us encouragement to open a second branch which was always on the cards.
“Greggs watch out, we’re going to have a lot of branches.”
Carina has opened another chain in Bromley, but the pandemic put a stop on her expansion.
She told the Mail on Sunday: “Of course, when the pandemic hit, everything changed for everyone in hospitality.
“It’s tough at the moment. We’re ticking over, so that is good. But if it wasn’t for the pandemic, we would probably have three or four shops now.”
Sian Gabbidon – Series 14 (2018)
Having come out on top in 2018, Sian ploughed the prize money straight back into her swimwear business, Sian Marie.
After winning The Apprentice, she focused on building her team in Leeds and growing the company from small scale to mass production.
“It’s a big achievement and been such a thrill. But you know, that’s just the start for us. It’s the first step,” said Sian in October 2019.
“The platform of being on the Apprentice is amazing. There’s no doubt having somebody like Lord Sugar on board has opened doors for me. Having his knowledge and guidance on how to approach situations is a massive help.”
Her SS19 Tropical Goddess collection was worn by actress Michelle Keegan and Love Island’s Hayley Hughes and she also launched her own Apprentice-based podcast .
At the end of last year, Sian announced she was launching a swimwear collaboration with Asda, which amazingly is where she started her career working.
James White and Sarah Lynn – Series 13 (2017)
Lord Sugar couldn’t decide a winner in 2017, so in an unprecedented move he picked both James White and Sarah Lynn.
Admitting he had always been a gambler in business, Lord Sugar said: “This particular year, I’m going to double my investment… I’m going to start a business with both of you.”
He invested a combined £500,000 that year, with half going to James’ IT recruitment firm and the other half into Sarah’s confectionary company.
During the process, James broke show rules by having a romance with fellow candidate Jade English, with a source close to the show claiming the pair got up to some ‘saucy antics’.
Following the fling, which cooled off before the series aired on TV, Jade reportedly split from her male model boyfriend after three years, while James separated from his heartbroken fiancee.
Sarah’s personalised sweet company, Sweets in the City, has gone from strength to strength since Lord Sugar joined as a partner and is now stocked in Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.
But it was a rockier road for self-proclaimed ‘Del Boy’ James who was said to have suffered a series of ‘unfortunate setbacks’ and lost £30,000 in the first six months in his IT recruitment company, Right Time Recruitment.
In December 2020, it was revealed that James and Lord Sugar had parted ways but The Apprentice boss was reportedly letting him keep the money he invested.
“I wish James all the very best for the future and will follow his progress with interest,” said Lord Sugar in a statement.
James added: “I am very grateful for everything Lord Sugar has done for me. The knowledge and advice gained from Lord Sugar and his team has been invaluable.”
Alana Spencer – Series 12 (2016)
Alana put the £250,000 into her baking business Ridiculously Rich, and set up an ambassador plan with Lord Sugar.
She exclusively told Mirror TV her turnover has gone from £100,000 to an expected £450,000 in a year thanks to winning The Apprentice.
The queen of cake bought back Lord Sugar’s shares and became the sole owner and director of the firm in 2019.
“A little while ago I had the amazing opportunity to buy out Lord Sugar from Ridiculously Rich and take full control back of my business,” she explained on social media.
“It was an exciting, crazy, scary few months while the final details were being agreed and sorted, but something I am so grateful for.”
She added: “Working with Lord Sugar has been an incredible experience and I have learned such a lot in such a short space of time. I am so grateful for his time in Ridiculously Rich by Alana.”
Wishing her luck, Lord Sugar said: “I will follow Alana’s progress with much affection.”
Alana was going to open more stores but lockdown hit, so she decided to focus on the four stores that she already has open.
Joseph Valente – Series 11 (2015)
Joseph Valente split from Lord Sugar just two years after he invested £250,000 into his plumbing business and announced he would take full control of ImpraGas.
But they parted on friendly terms, with Lord Sugar saying: “I’ll still be on hand to offer any help and advice required. I wish Joseph and ImpraGas all the very best for the future and will follow their progress with much affection.”
Joseph added: “I am so grateful for everything Lord Sugar has done for me and I could not have asked for a better partner in the early stages of my business career.
“I owe him a great deal. I am confident that with the winning business model we created together, I can continue to grow the business successfully.”
In the summer of 2020, he was forced to sell his boiler installation business amid reports it owed almost £2million to creditors.
ImpraGas was sold for an undisclosed sum, safeguarding jobs, but shell company VBH Assets, co-owned by Joseph, entered into voluntary liquidation, owing £1.9million to creditors.
Joseph opened up on his battle with depression and public shaming after the failure of his company, but said it made him even more determined.
“It hit me very hard, I was very depressed for a couple of months, and one day I woke up and thought, ‘There is no way I am going to let this destroy me'”, Joseph told Mirror Online.
“I had my credibility and my reputation to rebuild.”
He started from scratch and his course to support new and existing businesses on how to grow, Trade Mastermind and Power2Succeed, are going from strength to strength.
Mark Wright – Series 10 (2014)
Australian-born Mark won a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar in 2014, despite getting confused for the TOWIE star with the same name.
He started his digital marketing agency, Climb Online, which has become the most successful company to have gained investment through the BBC show, bringing in £5million in its second year.
Following growth and success in both Bristol and London, Mark expanded the company to Manchester, saying: “Climb Online is a vision that I have had for several years.
“I moved to the UK in 2012 after six months of travelling and got my first full time job working at an internet marketing Agency.
“Five years on, Climb Online is about to open in its third location, and we have become the go-to business for marketing success, and I am excited to see what Manchester has in store for us!”
Away from business, Mark started dating another winner, Leah Totton, back in 2015 but they decided to keep the relationship quiet as they are nervous about what Lord Sugar would think.
But they struggled to keep their romance going while having incredibly busy work schedules, which made it almost impossible to be together.
They announced their split in October 2016 – with Mark explaining the reasons why it didn’t work out.
Mark said: “We are both incredibly driven people and, due to our busy schedules, the relationship just wasn’t working, so we decided to go our separate ways. Leah is a lovely girl, and we remain good friends.”
In August 2020, Mark officially became a UK citizen.
Leah Totton – Series Nine (2013)
Leah managed to see off stiff competition from Celebrity Big Brother star Luisa Zissman in 2013.
The Irish GP used her £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar to open several cosmetic surgery clinics.
The launch was controversial, with critics claiming it would encourage women to have more treatments, but Leah batted off the comments and her clinics have been a huge success.
She’s had a load of famous clients, including The Only Way Is Essex stars, and Karren Brady attended her launch event.
Leah also worked part-time as a locum doctor in NHS A&E centre.
Lord Sugar has visited the clinic many times – and Leah has joked she has offered him Botox many times but he “politely declines”.
The 2013 Apprentice winner revealed she was engaged in October 2018, just hours before Lord Sugar unveiled the latest batch of business-obsessed hopefuls in that year’s series.
Leah announced the news with a picture of her enormous diamond engagement ring worn proudly on the fourth finger of her left hand in a sweet tweet.
She wrote: “I am genuinely delighted to share the news that I am engaged! My fiancé is the most amazing man on the planet, I am beyond grateful to have him in my life and so excited to become his wife!”
Even to this day, Leah’s new man has managed to stay out of the limelight.
Ricky Martin – Series Eight (2012)
Ricky Martin (no, not that one) was Livin’ La Dida Loca back in 2012 when he went into business with Shuggs.
“I’m like a shark, right at the top of the food chain. I take what I want, when I want. I truly am the reflection of perfection,” boasted the former pro wrestler Ricky Martin on the show.
He went on to win over Lord Sugar with his business plan for a specialist science recruitment company.
He is now the managing director of Essex-based business Hyper Recruitment Solutions, set up with the £250,000 investment winners now get.
Qualified biochemist Ricky, who changed his name from Richard to emulate the pop star, and Lord Sugar each own half the business.
He’s gone on to win numerous business awards, is earning several million pounds each year and is also dad to two kids with wife Gemma.
Tom Pellereau – Series Seven (2011)
It seemed like Tom would be straight out the door after he was on the losing team five weeks in a row.
Exasperated Lord Sugar once barked at him: “If you nod your head any longer, I’m going to put you on the back seat of my bloody car.”
But the inventor still triumphed and went into business with the tycoon developing Stylfile nail care products to be sold at Tesco and Asda supermarkets.
Their company made a turnover of £1.5million thanks to his winning S-shaped nail file.
Since then he’s also launched a new makeup brush-cleaning gadget Stylpro and other time-saving beauty tech like gel nail polish remover clips and a baby-safe nail clipper.
Tom, who admits he still gets “shouted at all the time” by Lord Sugar, also went on to develop a collapsible baby bottle and a bowel cancer screening device.
Stella English – Series Six (2010)
The highs of winning the BBC series were soon followed by deep lows for Stella English, who was hired by Lord Sugar in 2010 in the final episode of that year’s series.
Her success turned sour when she quit her £100,000 per year job with Lord Sugar, arguing she was used like an “overpaid lackey” and unsuccessfully attempting to sue her former boss.
Stella moaned that her role with Lord Alan Sugar’s computer company Viglen was nothing like she thought it would be and an insider said she felt like a “glorified PA”.
A company spokesman confirmed that Stella would be switching companies to join web-connected TV service YouView, of which Lord Sugar was non-executive chairman.
But Stella didn’t enjoy her new role either and later claimed she felt pressured into taking the new position at Sugar’s internet set-top box company.
Speaking on ITV’s Daybreak in September 2013, she explained: “Despite [the high salary] I couldn’t actually physically stay there, because it was unbearable. I had no future there, I knew that’s why I resigned.”
After resigning, Stella landed a £200,000-a-year consultant job with Citigroup, but things got ugly when Stella tried to sue Lord Sugar for constructive dismissal.
In the March 2013 tribunal showdown, Stella claimed Lord Sugar told her that he “didn’t give a s***” if she left his company, but the panel decided her case “should never have been brought” and was “ill-advised”.
Following the case, the tycoon counter-sued his old employee, demanding that Stella pay for lawyers he employed during her failed constructive dismissal case against him – costs amounting to £50,000.
“I do not know how I am going to feed my kids, never mind the mortgages,” she told the panel during the hearing.
Lord Sugar’s counter claim failed as an East London Tribunal Service panel ruled that the mother-of-two should not have to repay any of the legal fees.
Lord Sugar later accused her of aiming for a “tidy” out-of-court settlement, adding: “I’m afraid she underestimated me and her reputation is now in tatters.”
What happened next for Stella was an astonishing fall from grace as she went from the boardroom to the job centre, her marriage collapsed and she had just £90 in the bank.
“I wish I had never gone on The Apprentice. I’m broke and on my knees. I just don’t know how I’m going to carry on,” she told The Mirror in September 2013.
Stella struggled to find work at first but then appeared as a host for Crowd Box – a TV channel that helps entrepreneurs raise money through crowd-funding – and found work as a management consultant.
Her love life also turned around as Stella found happiness with snooker player boyfriend Ali Carter in 2016 and they had a baby together in 2013.
Yasmina Siadatan – Series Five (2009)
After becoming Lord Sugar’s Apprentice, Yasmina said: “I feel very lucky. Life is brilliant.”
The steely brunette was tipped for greatness and immediately began working for Lord Sugar in a £100,000 a year deal.
The restaurant owner worked at his Amscreen Healthcare company, which supplies advertising and information screens to hospitals and GPs.
The following year she announced she was pregnant following a whirlwind romance with colleague Andrew Hepburn, going on maternity leave at Christmas 2010 and her first child was born the following month.
She was due to return in January 2012, but told bosses she was expecting another baby.
A spokesman for Lord Sugar later said: “Both sides would have liked to work with each other for longer but Lord Sugar knows family must come first. Yasmina did a great job and the door is always open should she ever want to return.”
After two years spent starting her family, Yasmina was “itching” to get back to work and was headhunted by Dragons’ Den star James Caan to be Head of Operations role in a Private Equity firm.
“Once I had met various people in the organisation I was sold on the company as a whole, especially James himself, so it was just a case of them finding a role that would suit me,” said Yasmina.
“It wasn’t an advertised role but something that James matched my skills to, which is how a lot of people are brought into the company.”
Yasmina then worked as creative director of Start Up Loans and as Head of Marketing at a fintech firm and also ran as a Conservative candidate for council for a by-election in Henley in March 2017.
Lee McQueen – Series Four (2008)
Charming Lee was renowned for his “That’s what I’m talking about!” catchphrase.
The milkman’s son, who became owner of a million-pound company, rang in sick with food poisoning on what should have been his first day at Lord Sugar’s company.
But he went on to work there for two and a half years, setting up a successful digital media business with his boss’s son Simon.
Lee worked for Sir Alan Sugar ’s Amshold company as a development director, developing Amscreen-branded digital display advertising products for the outdoor market.
After deciding to leave, he said: “Having gained a huge amount of experience in my role at Amscreen, I felt now was the right time to start up on my own.”
Next, he founded a company, Raw Talent Academy, to help young people get recruitment and sales jobs.
In 2010, Lee had 18 employees and the firm was expected to make nearly £1.5million.
He launched a technology platform, Phoenix51, to bring data driven decision and people assessment into the digital age.
Simon Ambrose – Series Three (2007)
Simon memorably caused Sir Alan to explode with frustration as he struggled to put together trampolines he was trying to flog on a television shopping channel.
“Well, I’d like to think I’ve shown that a nice guy from a nice background sometimes can win,” he told Digital Spy.
But the Cambridge graduate won the series and went on to work for Lord Sugar’s property company Amsprop for three years, as well as studying to be a chartered surveyor.
After leaving in 2010, Simon became a property developer, started running an events company and invested in a string of bars and restaurants in London.
Among his Apprentice rivals was Katie Hopkins, who went on to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.
Michelle Dewberry – Series Two (2006)
After landing a £100,000 job with Lord Sugar, Michelle worked on the launch of Xenon Green, which specialised in computer equipment disposal.
She left the company before the end of her 12-month contract and set up her own consultancy firm to support aspiring young entrepreneurs.
Michelle also became a Sky News TV pundit and runs a shopping website, dailychic.co.uk.
A few years ago she had to have surgery to remove a spot on her face after a biopsy revealed it was cancerous and urged fans to get pimples checked.
In July 2020, Michelle gave birth to a little boy nine weeks early with former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, who is now a talkSPORT presenter.
Michelle’s waters broke when she was just 28 weeks pregnant, following a visit to see her mum in Hull after the lockdown restrictions eased.
Sharing the news on Twitter, The Apprentice star said: “So happy to share that I’m now a mummy! After a month in hospital & lots of complications, my little man came into this world way too early (31 weeks) but takes after his mamma & is a fighter.
“I’m in love. Our next chapter, that of NICU is now upon us. We take it day by day.”
Since 2021 she has hosted her own prime time GB News show called Dewbs & Co.
Tim Campbell – Series One (2005)
The first ever winner of The Apprentice, Tim stormed to victory in 2005 after the most gruelling job interview of his life.
The former London Underground transport manager joined Lord Sugar’s company Amstrad and launched the Integra anti-wrinkle device at Argos and Harrods.
He left in March 2007 after two years working with the big boss and set up social enterprise Bright Ideas Trust to support young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“I never saw the Apprentice, Lord Alan’s position, as a job for life,” he told The Guardian. “It was on a plate for me but that wasn’t what it was about. I never saw him as a blank cheque.”
Tim became head of client services for recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions and then London Mayor Boris Johnson ’s ambassador for training and enterprise.
In December 2013, Tim was diagnosed with testicular cancer but fought back with the support of his wife Jasmine and was given the all-clear.
Tim received an MBE for Services to Enterprise Culture in 2012 and co-founded bespoke digital marketing agency Marketing Runners Ltd in 2016.
After Claude Littner suffered a horror crash last year, Tim stepped in to replace him as Lord Sugar’s aide for the current series.
Discussing his role in the new series, Tim said: “I’m excited to be looking after Claude’s boardroom chair while he recuperates and look forward to seeing what the candidates come up with on this year’s tasks.
“I was saddened by the circumstances which led to getting the call from Lord Sugar, but having been on the show myself, I know the hard work that goes into it – so I didn’t take the decision lightly. I wish Claude the very best as he recovers.”
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