Apprentice winner Stella English told 'don't upset Lord Sugar'

  • 6 March 2013
  • From the section Kent
Media captionThe BBC's Louisa Baldini: "The animosity between them is very tangible"

A winner of The Apprentice was warned not to upset Alan Sugar as she went into a meeting with him to discuss job concerns, a tribunal heard.

Stella English, from Kent, was employed by the tycoon's IT company Viglen, but said its chief executive told her on her first day, there was no job.

The East London Employment Tribunal Service has heard she felt like "an overpaid lackey".

She told the hearing she feared being a "troublemaker" if she complained.

Ms English, who won the show in 2010 and earned £100,000 a year with the company, said she had no choice but to resign after being told her contract was not being renewed.

'Kept mouth shut'

She is claiming constructive dismissal at the tribunal, which began on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old, from Whitstable, had to carry out a four-month probationary period before she was named the winner in December 2010.

She told the hearing she had no clear role and was given only basic administrative tasks to do at Viglen.

On Tuesday, she told the hearing that on her first day Bordan Tkachuk, the chief executive, told her: "There is no job."

The tribunal previously heard that when she emailed Lord Sugar to ask for a one-to-one meeting, she was disappointed to find Mr Tkachuk and two other members of senior staff were also going to be there.

Ms English told the tribunal that before they went in, Mr Tkachuk told her: "Don't make me embarrass you."

"I believe that it meant don't raise any issues with Lord Sugar - any issues that he's not going to be happy about," she said.

"The reality is that I had to work at this company with this person.

Image caption Ms English got a job in Lord Sugar's IT company Viglen

"Basically, I was just toeing the line. I didn't say anything, I just kept my mouth shut."

During cross examination Seamus Sweeney, representing Lord Sugar, asked her why she did not complain to Lord Sugar about how she was treated.

Ms English said: "I was in a trial period to win The Apprentice.

"What value is there in me going into a company I don't know - whether I knew [I was going to win] or not - and then go and complain about people who have been working there a long time?"

'Whirlwind after winning'

Asked why she did not drop out of the process if she was so unhappy, she said: "It did cross my mind."

"I had still hoped that by not making complaints and not being difficult with these people that in time I could maybe win them over."

An email was read out that Ms English sent to Lord Sugar on 24 December 2010, after she was named the winner.

The tribunal heard she wrote: "I'm happy and people have been really kind to me."

Asked why she said that, Ms English told the hearing she had been in a "whirlwind" after winning the competition and taking part in numerous TV appearances and photoshoots.

"Some people had been really kind to me. I don't dispute that," she said.

"And some people hadn't been so kind to me.

"I'm not saying that every single person at Viglen was horrible.

"I'd just won The Apprentice. It was Christmas Eve."

The hearing continues.

More on this story

Around the BBC