LORD Sugar condemned “claim culture” yesterday as he accused a winner of his TV show The Apprentice of lying and taking him to a tribunal “to extract money from me”.
Stella English, 34, who won series six of the BBC show in 2010, is suing him for constructive dismissal.
She was given a £100,000 role with Lord Sugar’s IT division Viglen but resigned in 2011 and complained that her role was that of an “overpaid lackey”.
Ms English, of Whitstable, Kent, said she felt pressurised into taking a new position at Lord Sugar’s internet company You View. She told a hearing in east London that Lord Sugar then advised her he would not be renewing her contract.
Lord Sugar said: “I believe this claim, together with its publication in the media, is simply an attempt to extract money from me.”
He said Ms English wrongly believed he was “scared” of articles about him or The Apprentice appearing in the press. Lord Sugar said: “I seriously believe the claimant is deluded that I’m frightened about newspaper articles and that I would not appear at a tribunal as a witness.”
He said Ms English was under the impression he would pay her off to avoid having to attend the hearing. But he told the tribunal: “I have no intention to pay her any money unless told to do so by the law.”
Lord Sugar added that he held strong principles on the issue and had spoken in the Lords on “this new wave of claim culture”.
He said that within days of Ms English suddenly leaving her job in October 2011, interviews with her appeared in newspapers.
“She was desperate for money,” Lord Sugar told the hearing. “She was missing the attention she has previously enjoyed as The Apprentice winner.”
He dismissed Ms English’s allegation that she had been pressurised into taking the You View job as “total garbage”.
The entrepreneur also said a claim by Ms English that he told her he “didn’t give a s***” was another example of her being “deluded”.
In an exchange with Philippa Jackson, representing Ms English, Lord Sugar accused his former employee of lying to generate publicity.
“I’m angry because it’s a total lie,” he said, when Ms Jackson suggested he appeared agitated.
“When I came into the process of this tribunal, I was going to try to be generous to your client, but I’ve sat here and listened to her and there is no other way to describe what she has said than as blunt lies.” Lord Sugar went on to accuse Ms English of being a “serial liar”.
He said he had been “worrying about her welfare” when he offered Ms English the You View job, but “it’s come back and slapped me in the face”.
The case brought by Ms English amounted to blackmail, Lord Sugar claimed. Described on The Apprentice as the nation’s “most belligerent boss”, he told Ms Jackson: “I’m not going to succumb to blackmail, to pay your client lots of money, with her solicitor hearing my name and seeing pound signs, hearing ‘kerching’ signs coming up.
“I’m here because I have no case to answer. If you’re talking about scams, this is a scam, an abuse of the tribunal system.”
The tribunal continues.