He’s been telling contenders “you’re fired” for 15 years. But Lord Sugar has said he thinks he will “max out” on starring in The Apprentice after two decades.
The entrepreneur, who will mark his 15th year on the show when it returns tonight, believes it will have run its course after 20 years.
He said: “I’ve often had thoughts of when am I going to give it up. Next season will be the 16th.
“First of all it’s not my decision – let’s get that right, the decision lies with the BBC, whether they want to continue to do it–- but if they did, I think I would max out at 20 years, a 20-year ceremony.”
He added: “I think enough is enough then. I would be 77, I might not be compos mentis by then, you never know.”
The new series will see 16 new aspiring entrepreneurs whisked to South Africa for the first challenge.
In a bumper first episode the hopefuls will be transported to Cape Town where they will have to create and run bespoke safari and vineyard tours.
The episode will be five minutes longer than usual, with the BBC pushing back the News At Ten to make way for the 64-minute series premiere.
Lord Sugar added he believes the show could continue without him if he departs but the BBC would struggle to find someone who is the “all-rounder” he is.
He said: “One, I’ve got an exceptionally good memory, two, I’ve done all this.
“I started with a little mini van and I’ve seen anything, done everything, had disappointments, know what selling is all about, know what not to do.
“I’ve sat in boardrooms in banks and negotiated big deals with banks at hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds, but (when) I started off, my first sale was probably £5 with five car aerials.
“I’ve loaded lorries, sat on the production line, produced more good on the production line than any of these people have ever done, done my own marketing, my own advertising, buying components, getting prices right, designing products – I’ve done it all, so I think they would find it very hard.
“If you look at some of the other business programmes that are on TV, I’m not sure there is such an all-rounder there.”
Claude Littner, who is one of Lord Sugar’s advisers on the show, said: “The fact of the matter is Karren (Baroness Brady, the other adviser on the show) and I work very, very hard on the ground but, in all honesty, Alan holds the whole thing together, and if you listen hard to the business messages, that is what it’s all about.
“So it’s very great entertainment but I can’t see a situation where, if Alan is not invol- ved, it has got any promise at all.”
Baroness Brady agreed, saying: “They would be incredibly big shoes to fill and I think almost too big.
“If you look at great shows that have changed the lead, they failed, and I think this one would go the same way.”
Lord Sugar dismissed comparisons between his level of business acumen and that of President Donald Trump, who hosted the US version of the show.
He said: “He was useless, completely useless. Totally useless, you cannot even talk in the same breath. There is no comparison.”
The Apprentice is on BBC One on Wednesdays at 9pm.