June 5, 2009 / 3:41 PM / 10 years ago

UK's Brown says "You're Hired" to "Apprentice" star

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown said “You’re Hired” on Friday to Alan Sugar, the tycoon famous for his “You’re Fired!” putdowns on television show “The Apprentice.”

Businessman Alan Sugar arrives for the British Academy Television Awards 2009 at the Royal Festival Hall in London April 26, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Brown, battered this week by the resignation of five cabinet ministers and a very poor showing in local elections, recruited the blunt-speaking Sugar to take on a business advisory role, specializing in small and medium-sized companies.

This sector has been particularly badly hit by the worst economic downturn in decades.

Sugar, 62, became a household name chairing the British version of the U.S. show “The Apprentice” which brought Donald Trump into the homes of millions of Americans.

The UK series, which puts candidates through 12 weeks of business-related tasks in order to win a job with Sugar, is now in its fifth series.

Sugar’s fame and business acumen may help the government to sell its broader message to a skeptical public, but it could also fuel criticisms Brown should focus less on celebrity figures and more on political policy.

Brown was mocked this week after he telephoned to check on the health of singer Susan Boyle who shot to instant fame in a television talent show before being treated in a London clinic for exhaustion.

Sugar’s appointment came on a day when Brown carried out a government reshuffle to shore up his authority over a Labour party riven by high-profile resignations and a scandal over lawmakers’ perks.

Sugar, the son of a tailor, set up his Amstrad company in 1968 and helped to pioneer the sale of personal computers. He sold out to BSkyB in 2007 and in 2008 his fortune was estimated at 830 million pounds ($1.33 billion).

He said the new role would focus on motivating business and “encouraging some enterprise spirit.”

“All I can do is advise those that are in charge of making policy from a business point of view ... what’s right and what’s wrong,” he told Sky News.

Sugar is a long-standing friend of Brown and already sits on the Business Council for Britain, which advises on issues affecting enterprise and the economy.

Ahead of his appointment, Sugar supported the embattled prime minister who faces a rout in local and European elections and a potential rebellion among party members.

“We are in a kind of emergency situation as far as the economic conditions go, and you couldn’t have a better person in place as far as I’m concerned,” he told BBC television, referring to Brown’s decade as finance minister.

Sugar left school at 16 and sold car aerials out of a van, before going on to create a business empire which made him one of the country’s top 100 wealthiest men.

Editing by Matthew Jones

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