The 73-year-old star of The Apprentice posted a tweet in December 2019 encouraging people to buy a teeth-whitening package as the “perfect Xmas gift”.
He was referring to former Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau’s company Stylsmile, of which he is a 50% business owner.
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) December 9, 2019
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a complaint and ruled the tweet did not make clear that it was an advert.
Lord Sugar hit back: “5.3m followers know Tom was the winner of the Apprentice and I own 50% of the company. A jobs worth at @ASA_UK deliberately ignored this fact made a fuss that I retweeted Tom's ad. They leaked it to media. I must be mad to have not taken them to court. I will if they do it again.”
5.3m followers know Tom was the winner of the Apprentice and I own 50% of the company.A jobs worth at @ASA_UK deliberately ignored this fact made a fuss that I retweeted Tom's ad. They leaked it to media. I must be mad to have not taken them to court. I will if they do it again.
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) May 6, 2020
Pellereau won the seventh series of The Apprentice in 2011 and Lord Sugar regularly tweets about his company and other former Apprentice winners’ businesses that he has a financial interest in.
But the ASA ruled: “We considered that although Lord Sugar was a well-known investor, it was not immediately clear to all consumers that he had a commercial interest in Stylsmile UK from the tweet itself.
“We therefore concluded that the commercial intent behind the tweet was not made clear upfront and it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
“The ad must not appear again in the form complained of.
“We told Stylideas Ltd t/a Stylsmile UK and Lord Sugar to ensure that they made clear the commercial intent of their posts in future, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier on their social media posts such as #ad.”
BBC show The Apprentice sees aspiring entrepreneurs compete for Lord Sugar’s investment in their business ideas.
Following several high-profile cases involving reality TV stars including Made In Chelsea’s Millie Mackintosh and Louise Thompson, the ASA introduced new guidance in 2018 stating all paid-for advertisements on social media must be clearly identifiable as marketing material.