Emmy Award-winning television producer Mark Burnett surely knows how to turn the seemingly boring world of business into a topic that is exciting and engaging enough to glue people to their televisions. More than a decade ago, the executive producer of “Shark Tank” revolutionized the reality television space with the first episode of “The Apprentice.”
During each season of the show, 14 to 16 individuals compete to win a six-figure paying job with the host of the show. In the case of the American version, the winner of each season would win a job with “The Trump Organization” and essentially become one of Donald Trump’s apprentices. The candidates are divided into two teams throughout the grueling selection process and are given a business task to work on every week. One after the other, a member from the losing team of each task is eliminated until the last contestant standing becomes the winner and is named the apprentice. (For more, see Understanding Value: Donald Trump & His Net Worth.)
“The Apprentice” has been a tremendous success both in the United States and abroad. There are as many as 26 countries with their own local version of the show. Each of these local versions is hosted by a native, highly-accomplished and wealthy entrepreneur. Below are some of the most well-known and successful people to have hosted the international versions of “The Apprentice.”
Lord Alan Sugar
As one of Britain's most prominent businessmen, Lord Alan Sugar made his fortune as a technology entrepreneur. In the late 1960s, he started a consumer electronics company, Amstrad, that focused on manufacturing and selling low-cost computers to households in the United Kingdom. In 1980, Sugar became a millionaire shortly after listing Amstrad on the London Stock Exchange. Two decades later, he was knighted Sir Alan by the Queen of England for making outstanding contributions to the UK Home Computer and Electronics Industry. With a net worth of more than 1 billion pounds sterling, Lord Sugar holds substantial investments in commercial property.
Once New Zealand's most flamboyant property developer, Terry Serepisos declared bankruptcy in 2011, just one year after his first season of "The Apprentice New Zealand" aired. Serepisos was born in Greece and migrated to New Zealand with his family in the early 1960s. At the time of his bankruptcy hearings, Serepisos owed creditors more than $200 million and cited the global financial crisis as the reason why he was having issues servicing debt payments. In 2014, he was discharged from bankruptcy.
Despite having absolutely no experience running an airline, Tony Fernandes made his fortune – over $500 million – by acquiring a struggling airline company and turning it around. In 2001, Fernandes bought AirAsia, which, at the time, was a heavily indebted entity owned the Malaysian Government. He paid about $0.25 for the acquisition and took on the company's debt. Fernandes mortgaged his home and used his personal savings to pay some of the debt down. After a year, the company cleared all of its debts and has since been profitable. In 2013, Fernandes hosted "The Apprentice Asia."
The host of "The Apprentice Ireland," Bill Cullen, was exposed to the world of business from a very early age. Since the age of six, he helped his mother sell fruit at the local market, and he dropped out of school at thirteen to become a full-time market trader. Cullen became a millionaire after he purchased a car dealership franchise in 1980 for one pound and took on the company's 18 million pound debt. In the years that have followed, Cullen has had his hands in a number of businesses.
Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin, is the wealthiest person to have ever hosted "The Apprentice.” As the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, he owns large stakes in the energy, finance, metals, mining, real estate and retail industries. In 2007, it was reported that the total worth of his conglomerate was over $30 billion.
After being convicted of numerous fraud charges in 1980, Flavio Briatore fled Italy to the Virgin Islands to avoid prison. While in the Virgin Islands, he set up a number of successful Benetton franchises in the United States. After being granted amnesty, Briatore returned to Italy where he hosted the country's version of "The Apprentice."
After founding Australia's second largest non-bank mortgage lending company, Wizard Home Loans, Mark Bouris hosted three seasons of "The Apprentice Australia." In 2015, he received the Order of Australia for significant contributions to the national financial services industry.
The Bottom Line
"The Apprentice" has done extremely well in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to being a great source of entertainment, it can also be a powerful tool to introduce the general public to many aspects of business, such as finance, marketing and sales. A number of successful people with inspiring stories, including the seven aforementioned individuals, have hosted the show through any of the more than 25 versions produced worldwide.