- Bafta award-winning business series The Apprentice is now on its fifth run after four previous successful series. Since first airing in 2005, The Apprentice regularly draws in over eight million viewers and, last year, over 10 million viewers tuned in to see Lee McQueen become Sir Alan Sugar's fourth apprentice.
- As well as a wealth of loyal fans, The Apprentice has received critical-acclaim and won numerous awards including two Baftas and a National Television Award.
- Highlights of previous series include the brash defences of Claire Young and boardroom bluffing of Jenny Celerier. The business theatrics of Michael Sophocles and his kosher meat gaffe made him one of the standout characters of series four, while the floundering failure of Kevin Shaw, Lee McQueen's pterodactyl impression and not forgetting Raef Bajyou's ability to "speak to prince or pauper" all had the nation cowering behind their CVs.
- The Apprentice has spawned a number of columns and blogs in the National press and has been spoofed by comedians including French & Saunders, Harry Hill and Dead Ringers. In 2007, the BBC Two show Kombat Opera spoofed The Apprentice with Kombat Opera Presents ... The Applicants.
- This year's stellar line-up for Comic Relief Does The Apprentice 2009 included Jonathan Ross, Patsy Palmer, Carol Vorderman, Ruby Wax and Gok Wan. After the boys lost the toy design task, Sunday Night Project funny man Alan Carr was the unlucky candidate on the receiving end of the dreaded words: "You're fired!"
- In 2007, the first celebrity special of The Apprentice aired as part of the Comic Relief night on BBC One. Comic Relief Does The Apprentice featured a wealth of high profile celebrities including the likes of Cheryl Cole, Ross Kemp and Piers Morgan as they battled out to raise money and avoid the ultimate dent in their egos – being fired by Sir Alan Sugar. Last year another celebrity special aired as part of Sport Relief on BBC One – Sport Relief Does The Apprentice.
Sir Alan Sugar
- After leaving school in Hackney aged 16, Sir Alan started selling car aerials and electric goods out of a van he bought for £100. In 1968, he founded Amstrad, and now – over 40 years later – he has an estimated worth of £830million, and was ranked 84th in the 2007 Sunday Times Rich List.
- He became Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur FC in 1991 and, up until last year, he was their biggest single shareholder. In July 2007, Sugar sold his Amstrad empire to Sky. Sugar's other companies include AMSAIR, which offers business and executive jets to a number of high profile clients around the world, AMSPROP, a property investment firm and VIGLEN, a manufacturer specialising in computers, networks and solutions.
- In 2000, Sir Alan was knighted for his services to business and he holds two honorary Doctorates of Science degrees, awarded by City University and Brunel University respectively.
- He is a philanthropist for a number of charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital and Jewish Care. He has now been recruited to the government's Business Council for Britain where he is an advisor to Gordon Brown on issues affecting enterprise, business and the long term productivity and competitiveness of the economy. He is currently working with the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and the Rt Hon John Denham MP, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, to front a campaign promoting the benefits of apprenticeships.
- Margaret Mountford has spent over 20 years working with Sir Alan and is his most trusted advisor.
- Born and brought up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, she says her background aided her career progression, because "coming from Northern Ireland gives you a lot of basic level-headedness and stands you in very good stead".
- Margaret was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, before becoming a solicitor in private practice. She was a partner at Herbert Smith, a top-tier legal firm; it was at this time she met Sir Alan while she was doing legal work for Amstrad's flotation on the Stock Exchange.
- After retiring in 1999, Margaret took up her current role on the Amstrad board as a non-executive director. Although never officially employed by Sir Alan, they have worked together on projects for over 20 years.
- Margaret Mountford is currently working part-time toward a PhD in Papyrology, the study of ancient manuscripts.
- Former PR impresario Nick Hewer started off in public relations in the mid-Sixties.
- Heading up his own PR company until its sale in 1998, Nick built an impressive client list which, for over 20 years, included the secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan, based in Chantilly, France.
- Nick first came across Sir Alan when his PR company was chosen to represent Amstrad back in 1983. Soon taking care of Sir Alan's profile across all business and personal dealings, Nick became a trusted ally and firm friend to the tycoon, playing an integral part in the management structure at Amstrad.
- Friends throughout both careers, Sir Alan laid on a dinner at The Dorchester for Nick and 100 guests to celebrate his official retirement. Says Nick: "Sir Alan is a very generous friend. The best thing about working for him was there was always something going on – he has vibrancy about him."
- Nick's career has taken him all over the world; in his retirement he still pursues his lifelong passion of world travel. He has a home in France where he indulges his other passion, for tractors.
What happened to previous winners?
- Series four winner Lee McQueen continues to work for AMSHOLD, developing digital display advertising.
- Series three champ Simon Ambrose continues to work for AMSPROP, the real estate division of Sir Alan's group of companies, where he is working towards becoming a qualified Chartered Surveyor and developing a hotel and golf course near Stansted Airport. Simon has relaunched www.amsprop.com – a one-stop shop giving customers instant access to all of AMSPROP's portfolio. This is currently a unique proposition in the property industry.
- Series one winner, Tim Campbell, worked for Amstrad's health and beauty division for two years before he stepped down to set up the Bright Ideas Trust, an initiative to give young entrepreneurs a chance to set up a business with equity funding and advice.
- Michelle Dewberry, series two winner, completed 12 months at Amstrad and now runs a successful business consultancy.
- Of the runners up of the last series, many have gone on to launch successful businesses: Claire Young now runs a wedding planning and consultancy business while Jenny Maguire launched a string of successful photographic studios in Ireland. Raef Bjayou's charm has captivated audiences and he continues to appear on TV screens.
- From series two, Karen Bremner, who quit her job as a high profile lawyer to take part, now runs a successful ladies boutique – Broughty Ferry – for which she recently won a Young Entrepreneurial Company of the Year award. Series two runner up Ruth Badger now owns two businesses, Ruth Badger Consultancy, which specialises in company rescue, trouble shooting and recruitment, and North West Money, which helps provide finance for homeowners. In addition to this, Ruth has her own TV series on Sky One, Badger Or Bust, and is a popular guest speaker at various business functions throughout the UK.
- Series one runner-up Saira Khan has gone on to become a best-selling author with her self-help book P.U.S.H For Success. As well as contributing to the Daily Mail, Saira manages to mix a career in the media with her business expertise and spends her time juggling her career as MD for her company, Miamoo, with presenting the CBBC show Beat The Boss.
- Fellow series one candidate Paul Torrisi sold his property company for £4million when the series ended and now writes for the Daily Mail Property section, and his first book, The Apprentice Property Master, is released later this year.
Each week www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice will offer breaking news, video interviews, previews, teaser and highlight clips from the show coupled with the chance to see exclusive extended footage. Apprentice news and clips will also be available direct to mobiles via bbc.co.uk/mobile. Fans can keep the debate going through comments and message boards and for those that just can't get enough there will be links to Apprentice-related conversations happening across the web.
- 2009 Broadcast Award – Best Entertainment Programme
- 2008 Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival – Terrestrial Programme of the Year
- 2008 TV Quick/TV Choice Awards – Best Reality
- 2007 RTS Award – Features & Factual Entertainment
- 2007 Broadcast Award – Best Entertainment Programme
- 2006 Bafta – Features
- 2006 Bafta Pioneer Award – Pioneer Award (voted for by the public)
- 2006 National Television Award – Most Popular Reality Programme
- 2006 Rose D'or – Reality Show
- 2006 Televisual Bulldog Awards – Best Factual Reality Show
- 2006 TV Quick/TV Choice Awards – Best Reality
- 2006 The Guild of TV Cameraman Awards – Camera Team Excellence in Photography
- 2006 Banff – Unscripted Entertainment Programme
- 2006 Wincott Business Awards – Best TV Show of the Year
- 2005 National Television Award – Most Popular Reality Show
- 2005 RTS Craft & Design Award – Tape & Film Editing
- 2005 RTS Craft & Design Award – Tape & Film Editing, Entertainment & Situation Comedy
- 2005 Grierson Awards – Most Entertaining Documentary