1. ITV Report

Apprentice star 'after my money' - Sugar trial latest

Sir Alan Sugar and Stella English. Photo: PA

Lord Sugar condemned "claim culture" today 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 fronted by the millionaire peer in 2010, is suing him for constructive dismissal.

She was given a £100,000 role with Lord Sugar's IT division Viglen as her prize but resigned in May 2011 and complained that her role there was that of an "overpaid lackey".

Ms English, of Whitstable, Kent, said she felt pressurised into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar's internet set-top box company You View.

She told the hearing in east London that Lord Sugar then advised her, in an unscheduled meeting on September 28, 2011, that he would not be renewing her contract.

Reading out his own statement today, Lord Sugar said: "She is a suspicious, untrusting person and one who believes she has always been done down and places blame with others.

"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 House of 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.

That May, after stepping down from Viglen, she told Lord Sugar she planned to write a book and make public appearances, the tribunal heard.

"She was missing the attention that she has previously enjoyed as The Apprenticewinner," added Lord Sugar.

He dismissed Ms English's allegation that she had been pressurised into taking the You View job as "total garbage" and her claim that she was ostracised by colleagues at Viglen as "a figment of her imagination".

In an exchange with Philippa Jackson, representing Ms English at the tribunal, Lord Sugar accused his former employee of lying about her version of events in a bid to generate publicity.

"I'm angry because of this, because it's a total lie," he said, when Ms Jackson suggested he appeared angry.

"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 over the past two days and there is no other way to describe what she has said than as blunt lies."

Lord Sugar accused Ms English of "writing headlines" for the newspapers by what she has alleged to the tribunal.

He said the September 2011 meeting was amicable and that he had held similar conversations with previous winners of The Apprentice to discuss their future plans.

There was no full-time job available at You View and she had already made it clear she did not want to work at Viglen, Lord Sugar added.

He told the hearing yesterday that Ms English had "odd conspiracy theories" and that she resigned for good because she felt "her time in the limelight was beginning to fade".

Ms Jackson said the employment relationship her client had after winning the reality TV show was "a sham" and "a PR construct".

Ms English alleges Lord Sugar did not treat her life and future seriously.

She claims that in her first day of working for Lord Sugar, she was told by Viglen chief executive Bordan Tkachuk: "There is no job."

The hearing, listed to last for seven days, continues.

Lord Sugar accused Ms English of being a "serial liar" and said that with hindsight, he would have neither hired her nor offered her a second position when she initially resigned.

Before Ms English accepted the You View post, a press release had already been drafted announcing that she was leaving Viglen, the tribunal was told.

"The reality is, I didn't need to do anything," he told the hearing, while being cross examined by Ms Jackson.

"In hindsight, and hindsight is a wonderful word, I should have said, 'bonne chance, on your way', and put out the press release.

"But worrying about her welfare - that's what annoys me about this - worrying about her moaning that she's got no money and she's in debt ... that's why I took her to You View, and it's come back and slapped me in the face."

He said it was "nonsense" that his primary concern was the publicity that would come as a result of Ms English leaving the job she won on the television contest.

Lord Sugar told the tribunal: "My idea of taking her to You View was for her benefit, and how insulted I feel having to come here to defend a derisory claim when it was about her, her getting the balance of the contract and the money that she desperately needed."

The case brought by Ms English amounts to blackmail, Lord Sugar claimed.

Lord Sugar, described on The Apprentice as being the nation's "most belligerent boss", admitted becoming agitated when being cross-examined by Ms Jackson.

He told her: "I have lost my cool a little bit more today than I normally do.

"I get very angry when people bring derisory actions against me, I'm afraid to say.

"I'm not going to succumb to tantamount to blackmail really, 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 believe I have no case to answer and because I trust in the tribunal system and I'm here because I believe this is a classic abuse of the tribunal system."

Lord Sugar said it "would not have been good" for either Ms English's credibility or that of the show if she had left before her contract ended.

But he added: "My prime objective was to honour my commitments and to get her money."

When Ms Jackson told Lord Sugar to "stop pointing your finger", he replied to her: "I think you're deliberately trying to excite me and you're failing miserably."

Lord Sugar told the tribunal that, other than Ms English, the only other winner of The Apprentice to leave before the end of their 12-month contract was Series 2 winner Michelle Dewberry.

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