Son of a multi-millionaire beats the bookies to become the next £100,000 Apprentice by Fergus Sheppard.
He may be from a privileged background a million miles away from former street trader Sir Alan Sugar – but public schoolboy Simon Ambrose yesterday became the surprise winner of BBC1’s business reality show The Apprentice. Ambrose, 27, triumphed over rival Kristina Grimes, 36, in a finale expected to have attracted more than six million viewers.
For the final task, the two contestants were asked to come up with a striking landmark building on a £120 million London property site bought by Amstrad tycoon Sir Alan. Cambridge graduate Ambrose convinced 100 property experts with a bold design, although some critics claimed it resembled a “flaccid-looking phallic symbol”.
Ambrose now wins the £100,000 job with Amstrad for which 16 contestants competed over the past 12 weeks. The show winnerwas told by Sir Alan that he was not a good leader. But the famously abrasive Amstrad head added: “Bloody old fool that I am, I’m going to take that risk – you’re hired.”
The decision came as a shock to Grimes who until last night had been favourite to win. The single mother, who has worked for the past five years as a pharmaceutical sales manager, confessed to being devastated.
“I came on this intent on getting the job with Sir Alan. My heart and soul was in this, so it’s very tough. I was so confident, I really was. I don’t necessarily have to agree with the decision. At the end of the day, I’m quite emotional about it.”
Grimes had won plaudits not only for her coolness and efficiency, but also the fact she had built a business career despite having a child at just 17. Some of the other Apprentice candidates were so shocked by the decision they considered walking out of the Adrian Chiles show The Apprentice – You’re Fired!, which followed the main programme on BBC2.
Ambrose, whose father is a multi-millionaire businessman, said after the show: “I’m over the moon. The line has come full circle. I started out playing with an Amstrad computer as a child – now I’m working for Sir Alan. “He was someone I admired for my whole life. If he gives me a tea-making job to do, I’ll do it.”
Marketing and PR expert Mark Borkowski said to keep its appeal, The Apprentice needs to demonstrate the winner can enjoy a long-lasting career. “The winners haven’t really done anything post-series; the person who has done best out of it to date has been Ruth Badger, and she didn’t even win it.
“It needs to go beyond its programme format to enliven it.” Tim Campbell, winner of the first series of The Apprentice, left Amstrad to set up his own business.
Michelle Dewberry, the 2006 winner, quit after a year heading an Amstrad company that recycled old computers, and started her own consultancy. SIR Alan Sugar was yesterday forced into defending his trademark robust style after criticism of the way he questioned the contestant Katie Hopkins about her childcare arrangements.
Controversy arose after the Amstrad head grilled Ms Hopkins, a 32-year-old mother of two, over how prepared she would be to relocate from her Exeter home to London.
Sir Alan was seen by millions of viewers asking “how is life going to be?” if she were to move to the capital. He added: “I ain’t opening an office in Exeter.” In the event, Ms Hopkins made it to the next round of the show, but stood down amid concerns over uprooting her family.
The electronics and property tycoon yesterday said it would be “condescending” not to ask a mother applying for a job in London from outside the capital how she would manage.
“You go and ask 100 women in the street whether they would like me to deal with it that way, or whether they would like me to be condescending, follow all the rules in an eco-friendly green office, with six human resources managers around me,” he said.
“I’ll tell you what they would all say ‘you are right Sir Alan, I appreciate you asking me’.” He added that the requirements of the contest and the fact that the job was in London were spelt out to the contestants before the series began.
Ms Hopkins, speaking yesterday, said a section of the episode had been edited out in which Sir Alan had described how “his wife stays at home and looks after the children properly”.
Mark Conaghan, who practises employment law with Edinburgh and Glasgow firm Maxwell Maclaurin, said Sir Alan had embarked on a “risky” line of questioning. He said: “Ultimately, Sir Alan’s defence is that he offered her the job in the sense that he offered a place in the next round.
“The risk you do run is that any interview candidate being asked questions like that could definitely be left with the impression that they were being asked questions aligned to their sex. That could lead to a claim for sex discrimination if they didn’t get the job.”
• The first episode of The Apprentice proved the finale for one of the two Scots contestants on the show. Andy Jackson, a 36-year-old car sales manager living in Kirriemuir, was one of two team leaders chosen in a task to sell coffee in Islington. After a poor result, Sir Alan told the father of three: “Nice enough fella that you are, I don’t believe that you had this problem under control.”
• The second Scot, 23-year-old Glaswegian Ghazal Asif, lasted until week eight. Ghazal became team leader as two teams were instructed to create a new brand of trainer with a poster and video advert. Axing the show’s youngest ever contestant, Sir Alan said: “I think you’re all talk and no do.”
• One of the cringe-making highlights came in week ten as the six remaining contestants had the job of selling products on a TV shopping channel. Simon Ambrose embarrassed Sir Alan and a watching nation as he assembled the legs of a trampoline at crotch height and then proceeded to bounce up and down on it in a forlorn attempt to sell. Kristina Grimes fumbled with a mop before exclaiming “Jesus Christ” on air.
• Katie Hopkins’ catty remarks made her a star. She suggested fellow contestant Alan Hosker, a car salesman from Lancashire, would be better off “with his northern chums” and warned him against spending time with his friends “Mr Pinot and Mr Grigio”. Kristina’s fake tan made her “too orange to be taken seriously”. However, Hopkins dramatically stood down from the show in week 11, citing family difficulties.