March 17, 2009 / 3:35 PM / 10 years ago

Recession comes to Britain's "The Apprentice"

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British tycoon Alan Sugar launched the latest series of business reality show “The Apprentice” on Tuesday, saying the economic downturn would be reflected in his choice of winner and in the show’s tasks.

Howard Ebison, Majid Nagra, Noorul Choudhury, Sir Alan Sugar, Ben Clarke, Phillip Taylor, Rocky Andrews, James McQuillan of the show "The Apprentice" are shown in this undated handout. REUTERS/BBC Pictures/Handout

The fifth series will also have more of an international feel with a former Tanzanian beauty queen and a musician from the Bronx among candidates for the 100,000 pounds-a-year ($140,600) prize job.

Sugar said the recession meant his choice would be somebody who could stand out on day one of joining the company.

“In this day and age, people are not being recruited,” he told reporters.

“Companies are not taking on people that can get lost in the background and be part of some unknown part of the management. It’s much tougher out there. Companies are now focusing on people who are going to do something.

“I made the point to the apprentices that this is not a case of experimenting. The person that comes on board in the end is going to have to do some work.”

The multimillionaire businessman also said one of the tasks would be to reinvent a British seaside town in an attempt to lure cash-strapped Britons who are possibly considering staying at home this year.

“I think you will find as we go through the series some of the shots specifically tend toward the recession and the difficult times,” he added.

The show has already seen one candidate drop out before the first task, though Sugar said it was probably because he was missing his family.

Among the remaining 15 candidates are a city stockbroker, an award-winning restaurant owner, a lawyer, an aristocrat, an ex-professional footballer and a chess champion.

Their business heroes include JK Rowling and Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.

In the first episode, the blame game kicks-in immediately as the candidates are tasked with operating a cleaning business.

Sugar said he was fascinated that candidates make the same mistakes in each series.

“I think there is an air of panic (during the tasks),” he said, leading to “silly mistakes.”

Sugar also said he is in negotiations to do a junior “Apprentice.”

* The first episode of the new series will be shown on Wednesday, March 25 on BBC One.

Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato

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