Lord Sugar has revealed the BBC is in talks to air two series of the Apprentice in one year after filming for the latest show was cancelled due to coronavirus.
The Apprentice boss, 73, has said that producers hope they can start shooting for series 16 in September and put the show on at the start of 2021.
Businessman Lord Sugar, who aims to do another four series of the Apprentice before retiring, said: ‘We hope that if things calm down by July we might be able to start filming in September, in which case the show will be on early next year.’
Speaking to the MailOnline, Lord Sugar continued: ‘But if that’s not possible then it looks like we’re going to skip a whole year.
‘It’s a shame but it’s understandable, there’s nothing we can do. It’s not the death of the programme. The programme will proceed.
‘That’s one of the things we’re considering, to have two series air in one year. It will be a big challenge to do but it’s possible.
‘The production company already has a group of candidates that were ready to be in this next series and those candidates have been told to standby and see what happens.
‘It is quite obvious when you think about it, the filming normally starts in the spring, late spring and of course we don’t see that the crisis will be over anywhere near that.
‘Part of the Apprentice process is travelling abroad, to go into factories and kitchens and make things and get the assistance of third party companies to allow us in their premises so obviously that’s not possible – and until that is possible, we can’t film the show.’
Lord Sugar has vowed to front the Apprentice for another four years but says the fate of the show is in the hands of BBC One bosses.
He added: ’20 series is a nice round figure but listen it doesn’t depend on me, it depends on the BBC.
‘We were about to start filming the 16th series so they will need to agree to do another four more.
‘It’s not me that makes the decision, it’s them but if they wanted to do another four series, I’d be up for it.’
The billionaire has confirmed he’s not furloughed any of his staff and he’s confident none of his companies will face bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
But he admits it’s still a fearful time for business owners including his partner and 2013 Apprentice winner Dr. Leah Totton, 32, who’s been forced to close her cosmetic skin clinics due to the lockdown.
He said: ‘It’s not a good position to be in but fortunately we’re companies that have good financial resources, so our main company, we haven’t put anybody on furlough. They’re all being paid they can all operate perfectly at home.
‘But some of the bigger companies I own have completely closed.
‘Dr. Leah for example, the cosmetic clinics she has have all been shut for over a month and recruitment companies are trying to do their best.
‘Tropic Skincare is working with a skeleton staff but basically we have shut down, that’s it.
‘There are certainly companies that I have that it doesn’t matter if we’re shut or not like real estate companies but again the problem with that is construction has been stopped so yeah we’re shut down.
‘But that’s all we can do, we’re all in the same boat unfortunately.
‘We have a lot of financial backing and that’s it, none of my companies will be going into bankruptcy, that’s for sure.
‘But that’s not to say it isn’t going to happen to other people, a lot of our competitors will fall away.’
The 73-year-old is in Florida isolating with his wife Ann where he’s adopted a new life away from the boardroom – going for walks, cycling along the coast, reading by the pool and watching box sets.
And he isn’t missing his UK home in Chigwell, Essex, after describing the prospect of flying home as going from the ‘frying pan into the fire.’
‘To be frank, there was no point in me coming home,’ he said.
‘I would have been coming out of the frying pan into the fire really.
‘The weather is better here and we’re able to go out walking, there’s no shortage of food, people wear masks to go into the supermarkets and no restaurants are open but all the restaurants are doing takeaways and will deliver it for you.
‘I do 40-mile rides up the coast twice a week so we can do that and drive around in our cars.
‘We’ve sat and watched box sets or whatever you want to call them, we’ve got through quite a few different TV shows.
‘I’ve been doing a lot of reading also. Fortunately we have a pool area, the pool is closed but the area surrounding is open.
‘I’ve got FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, that’s a blessing in disguise that this terrible virus and crisis has come about in an era where technology has given people the chance to see and talk to each other so I suppose that’s one positive thing we have available to us.’
Despite being considered by the government as ‘vulnerable’ due to being over 70, the TV star says he isn’t at all threatened by the deadly virus and refuses to lock himself away.
He said: ‘I’m 73 and I fit in that category but I consider myself a very healthy and fit person but we’re not living under martial law.
‘I am a sensible person and I will do what’s good for my wife and me. I’m not going to lock myself away like a hermit.’