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Hiring and Firing: The Apprentice’s Jewish Connections

By December 13, 2015 April 8th, 2016 Blog-Leeds, Blog-Manchester

The 11th series of The Apprentice draws to a close this month, continuing its reputation as the most intense job interview ever.

Over 10 years of the deadly “You’re Fired” finger from Lord Alan Sugar has seen many promising applicants come and go, rarely in the blaze of glory. When the journey to the final is so enthralling, it’s easy to forget that after the cameras switch off and the headline-making antics are over, there’s a job waiting for the eventual winner.

The beauty of the series is that many applicants from all walks of life are given an opportunity to prove themselves. No matter the background, if you display a business acumen (however questionable it then reveals itself to be!) can talk good game (who could forget Stuart ‘The Brand’ Baggs’ way with words, who sadly passed away this year?), display good leadership skills and worm your way out of Lord Sugar’s board room showdowns, you can crawl your way to a job at the end of it all.

With this diversity in mind, it’s not a surprise to know that many self-styled ‘Alan Sugars’ have felt an affinity with the Jewish entrepreneur and self-made businessman, and so were keen to follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, the first contestant which immediately springs to mind for most Apprentice fans would undoubtedly be Michael Sophocles from Series Five. Marking himself as a “good Jewish boy” in his application to the show, he was brought under fire for mistakenly asking a Moroccan Halal butcher to pray over some make the chicken Kosher. As hilariously misguided it was for the average television viewer, it did bring Sophocles a lot of unwanted media attention as well as a stern talking down to from Lord Sugar himself.

This year, Essex-born Daniel Lassman faced the formidable Lord Sugar in the board room four times before being dismissed over his “ridiculous” business plan, according to Sugar’s right-hand man, Claude Littner. Leaving school at 16 without qualifications, he went on to set up his own pub quiz and events company.  Outspoken and opinionated, Lassman certainly made an impression on Sugar and fans alike. Describing the experience as “living through hell” to The Jewish News, he did admit that he found an “inner strength” to make it through 11 weeks, while also claiming “Lord Sugar had a soft spot for me”.

It’s not only the contestants who have strived to impress Lord Sugar over the years. Claude Littner, who replaced Nick Hewer as Sugar’s ‘advisor’ on the show alongside Karren Brady, has had a difficult run-in with Sugar when he first applied to work for Sugar’s computer company, Amstrad. A terrible interview led to a parting of ways.

Despite sharing a Jewish heritage and a shared professional interest in Tottenham Hotspurs, it was many years later when Sugar and Littner finally saw eye-to-eye. The Apprentice’s resident “Rottweiler in human form” since 2005, many contestants have been left ravaged by his terrifying interviewing technique. A regular visitor to synagogue, he has himself admitted that he has become a lot calmer in recent editions of the series.

The addition of BBC iPlayer’s ‘Honest Subtitles’ video series perfectly highlights the pressure-cooker environment which lends itself so well for ridicule. Despite this, when it comes down to the dreaded Board Room it remains serious business. Whatever the religious or cultural backgrounds of the prospective apprentices, it is honest and straight-talking business sense which should always win out in the end. But then again, this is show business…