Mar 7 2013
Lord Sugar has condemned "claim culture" 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 BBC1 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 YouView. She told a 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 and that he told her he did not "give a s***".
Reading out his own statement, 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."
Lord Sugar 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 said 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 Apprentice winner," added Lord Sugar. The entrepreneur also said Ms English's claim that he told her he "didn't give a s***" was another example of her being "deluded".
Lord Sugar admitted that he did say he did not "give a s***" in his meeting with Ms English, but that he was referring to his attitude to the media. "I contend I do not care about that, it was her I was caring about," he told the tribunal. "I contend I am insulted and disappointed I am being paid back and having to come here and humiliate myself in front of the national media, but I'm here because I have principles and I'm not just going to pay off people...
"When her instructing solicitor heard my name, it must have been 'Ding, ding, ding - jackpot. He's never going to show up, he's never going to give evidence.' If you're talking about scams, this is a scam. This is an abuse of the tribunal system."
When Philippa Jackson, representing Ms English, 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."