CLAUDE LIT­TNER SUGAR’S CUP OF TEA

What re­ally makes Lord Sugar tick, who’ll win ‘The Ap­pren­tice’ and why is he al­ways so cross? New right­hand man Claude Lit­tner re­veals all

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - SANDY RASHTY

HE’S NO stranger to The Ap­pren­tice — the BBC pro­gramme has billed him as the fiercest in­ter­viewer in Bri­tain — but now busi­ness­man Claude Lit­tner has the chance for a lit­tle star­dom. He has been up­graded from Lord Sugar’s oc­ca­sional ad­viser to his right-hand man.

In the new se­ries, which be­gan this week, Lit­tner, who made a name for him­self in cor­po­rate turn­arounds, will take over from Sugar’s long-time col­league Nick Hewer. Along­side busi­ness­woman Baroness Brady, he will be tasked with shad­ow­ing can­di­dates each week as they take part in the reg­u­lar ar­ray of chal­lenges.

And he’ll then ad­vise his TV boss on their suit­abil­ity for the prize of £250,000 in­vest­ment into a busi­ness part­ner­ship with him, which will be an­nounced at the end of the se­ries.

The task is quite a chal­lenge in it­self – but it’s one to which Lit­tner has long been ac­cus­tomed.

Since the first se­ries aired, Lord Sugar has trusted him to grill can­di­dates dur­ing the in­ter­view stage in the show’s semi-fi­nal episode. His no-non­sense at­ti­tude is renowned — and he fre­quently pushes the can­di­dates into re­veal­ing more about them­selves than they might wish.

Lit­tner has long ad­vised Lord Sugar be­yond the TV board­room. For the past 25 years, he has in­ter­mit­tently worked with Sugar and cur­rently co-chairs a num­ber of his com­pa­nies. And when Sugar chaired Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, Lit­tner acted as its chief ex­ec­u­tive from 1993 to 1998.

Lit­tner is well ac­cus­tomed to his grizzled lord­ship’s re­fusal to tol­er­ate fools — he has sim­i­lar traits.

So Claude Lit­tner is prob­a­bly an ideal can­di­date to part­ner Alan Sugar, know­ing him as well as he does. What, then, does it take to get into his good books?

“I’ve de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with Alan Sugar,” Lit­tner says, “whereby he trusts me and I trust him.

“Alan doesn’t re­quire any­thing that any­one else wouldn’t re­quire in the same sit­u­a­tion. You need to be very hon­est and very straight, and, if you don’t know some­thing then say you don’t know it. And if you do know some­thing, he’s very in­ter­ested in hear­ing what you’ve got to say.

“I don’t know what per­cep­tions peo­ple have about him, but he’s very di­rect, he’s very straight, very clever and as­tute and he doesn’t like — to put it in his words — bull****ers.”

And yes, Claude Lit­tner can con­firm, “what he doesn’t suf­fer, is fools. If you just want to say some­thing for the sake of say­ing some­thing, or you want to try and im­press him, that doesn’t work.

“He’s ex­tra­or­di­nary in his sixth­sense abil­ity to spot op­por­tu­ni­ties and flaws in ar­gu­ments — and I’d like to think I’ve got some of those qual­i­ties.

“He is very in­tol­er­ant — as am I — of peo­ple who are just show­boat­ing. That’s just not how we op­er­ate.”

He adds: “There are flaws you can’t abide in busi­ness. You don’t want any­one to be dis­hon­est, lazy, un­car­ing. Peo­ple look you in the eye and tell you some­thing, it’s nice to think they’re telling you the truth. Their best might not be good enough but you want peo­ple to be straight and hon­est.”

They do have sim­i­lar qual­i­ties, cer­tainly, but un­like Hack­ney-born Lord Sugar, who quit school aged 16, and has said he is look­ing for “a com­plete all-rounder”, Lit­tner, a trained ac­coun­tant, has some pol­ish.

Lit­tner, it’s clear, re­spects ed­u­ca­tion just as much, if not more than ex­pe­ri­ence.

A vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of West Lon­don Busi­ness School, which was named af­ter him last year in recog­ni­tion of his busi­ness record and back­ing of the univer­sity, Lit­tner, who speaks in crisp clear tones, be­lieves you can study busi­ness — it’s not some­thing that you sim­ply know, or don’t know.

“I’m ab­so­lutely sure that you can study busi­ness,” he says. “There’s an enor­mous value in it. There are lots of skills that are vi­tal to be­come a good busi­ness man­ager and find your place in the work­place.

“What­ever you study, there’s a cer­tain beauty in just gain­ing knowl­edge. There’s a beauty in learn­ing for learn­ing’s sake.”

And he brushes away any sug­ges­tion that higher tu­ition fees may dis­cour­age stu­dents from pur­su­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion. “Noth­ing is for free,” he stresses.

“I don’t think it’s un­rea­son­able to make it clear to stu­dents that, if

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