A WINNER of TV show The Apprentice was treated as an “overpaid lackey” in the £100,000 job she was awarded with Lord Sugar, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.
Stella English, 34, beat 15 other potential apprentices to win series six of the hit BBC1 show in 2010. She was rewarded with a role in Lord Sugar’s Viglen division, supplying IT equipment to academy schools, but said that when the millionaire told her he would not be renewing her contract she was given no choice but to resign.
She is now claiming constructive dismissal against Lord Sugar.
Ms English, of Whitstable, Kent, told the hearing at East London Employment Tribunal Service that on her first day at Viglen, chief executive Bordan Tkachuk looked at her with “contempt” and told her: “There is no job.”
Ms English fought back tears as she said she was given no guidance about what she was meant to be doing and was “ostracised” by her colleagues, who told her she had taken over another woman’s job which had a salary of £35,000.
Relegated to carrying out basic administrative tasks and with no real role, Ms English said she felt her employment was a “sham”.
She also said she did not feel like Lord Sugar’s “apprentice”, as she only saw him five times during her 13-month employment.
“My reasons for going on to The Apprentice was to be an apprentice and to be mentored by Lord Sugar,” she said.
“I didn’t believe they would pay me £100,000 a year to do anything less than £100,000 worth of work. The career-enhancing opportunities that The Apprentice position had been sold as simply failed to materialise.”
Ms English said that when she looked through the company’s accounts she realised that although it had a £60 million turnover, it only made a profit of £800,000 a year. She also noticed that projects worth £1.4m had not been invoiced.
She said when she e-mailed Mr Tkachuk to ask if she could discuss these matters with him, he sent her a scathing reply, copying in everyone else in the office.
Ms English wept as she said he wrote to her: “I don’t know what you’re doing but this ain’t how things work around here.”
She told the tribunal that she e-mailed Lord Sugar to ask if she could discuss the matter with him, but when he came to the office for a meeting with her, Mr Tkachuk was also present.
Ms English said she was upset when Lord Sugar asked his colleague what he thought of her and Mr Tkachuk replied: “Nice girl. Don’t do a lot.”
“They had never said this to me,” she said.
She said she phoned Lord Sugar in May 2011 and asked if she could meet him. “He made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want to see me.”
She said she told Lord Sugar: “I have tried so hard for so long and it’s not working. I’m an overpaid lackey at Viglen. My pride would not allow me to continue doing it.”
Ms English said Lord Sugar offered her a role in another company – internet set-top box company YouView – which she started in June 2011.
But she said that on 28 September, 2011, Lord Sugar said he wanted to see her.
It was then that he dropped the “bombshell” that he would not be renewing her contract.
She said Lord Sugar told her that he had given her the second role because he did not want to damage the integrity of The Apprentice or the BBC, or to harm his own public image.
Ms English said he added: “But the fact is that I don’t give a s***.”
Ms English, who left school with no qualifications but rose up to become the only female manager on the trading floor of a Japanese investment bank, taking home £82,500 a year, said she had begun to enjoy working at YouView.
She told the tribunal: “I’d given two years of my life to be told by somebody that ‘I don’t give a s***’. All the effort that I’d put in – to be told this was so unnecessary.”
The tribunal continues.
‘Ice maiden’ who left behind her troubled upbringing to join the trading floor
DESCRIBED as ruthless, loyal and with an “ice maiden” demeanour by the show’s judges on The Apprentice, Stella English overcame her well-educated rivals to become The Apprentice on a £100,000 salary – but her background was a world apart from the boardroom.
The 34-year-old left school with no qualifications, her father was absent and her mother Drusilla was often unable to care for her, leaving her to live with relatives and in care homes.
When she was six, her half brother was reported to have been locked up indefinitely at a secure mental hospital, having burned down a children’s home aged 15.
In her teenage years she was a regular at a pub in Thamesmead, south-east London, which was notorious for its gangland-related violence. She also modelled in her underwear at the age of 19.
She mixed with criminals, and had two sons with her partner Ray Dewar .
Mr Dewar was tried but cleared of perverting the course of justice.
Despite her background, however, Ms English enrolled on a one-year business course.
She was hired by financial advisors Merrill Lynch, before resigning from banking to join Lord Sugar’s company.