The Apprentice's most explosive boardroom showdowns

From a sensational walk-out to a strong dressing down from Lord Sugar, here are the most memorable boardroom bust-ups.

The Apprentice Lord Sugar
The Apprentice has seen some fiery boardroom bust-ups over 17 series. (BBC)

The Apprentice may be a contest about business acumen, but sometimes the clashes in the boardroom are more memorable than the winners.

The is BBC reality show back for its 18th series on BBC One on Thursday, 1 February, with 18 aspiring entrepreneurs taking their sears opposite Lord Sugar around the boardroom table. Looking back over the past 17 series there are some raging rows that stand out in the memories of Apprentice fans, above and beyond any of the task successes and interview blunders.

Here are the top three most memorable boardroom bust-ups The Apprentice UK has seen.

Debra told: 'Mind your manners'

Debra Barr's confident attitude got her as far as the interview stages in series five. But her confrontational behaviour did not impress Lord Sugar in the boardroom. In week six, following what has now become dubbed the treasure hunt task, sales consultant Debra clashed with trainee stockbroker Ben Clarke over her contribution to the team. She told him: "You're trying to claim glory for something you didn't even bl***dy look at."

'Countdown' host Nick Hewer is on the COVID vulnerable list due to his age. (PA)
Apprentice series 5 semi-finalist Debra Barr shouted at advisor Nick Hewer in the boardroom. (PA)

When advisor Nick Hewer told her "It's closing the deal that matters," she argued back, snapping: "You can't turn round and say to me that the work I did investigating the books didn't end up paying off."

Lord Sugar interrupted: "Excuse me, you find another way to express yourself. Stop talking to him like he's a second class citizen. Do you understand? You talk to me and get your points over to me. Don't talk to him in that manner. Am I clear?!" Like a naughty school-girl Debra piped down.

Thomas puts his head on the block

Brentwood, UK. 25th Mar, 2022. Brentwood Essex 25th Mar 2022 Thomas Skinner of
Apprentice contestant Thomas Skinner offered to take someone else's place in the boardroom showdown. (Alamy)

Pillow salesman Thomas Skinner was a fan favourite on the show in 2019, and has gone on to compete on Celebrity MasterChef and contribute to Good Morning Britain. In week eight, he demonstrated old fashioned chivalry when he stood up to project manager Ryan-Mark Parsons over his decision to bring teammate Pamela Laird back into the boardroom to face the firing line.

Thomas said: "I don't think you should be bringing Pamela back at all." Lord Sugar interrupted: "Do you want to take her place Thomas?" And he agreed saying: "I'm being serious, I won't have it. She should not be coming back into the room. 100 per cent." Ryan-Mark said: "Well on that basis I'll bring Thomas back, if he wants to come back so desperately." But Thomas's gamble paid off and Ryan-Mark was fired.

When Thomas was fired a week later, Lord Sugar commended his "honourability" and told him he liked how "you say it like it is."

Katie Hopkins sensationally quits

Katie Hopkins. Protest against vaccine passports in Trafalgar Square. (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Katie Hopkins quit the boardroom right before the final - before Lord Sugar had the chance to fire her first. (Getty Images)

Katie Hopkins is now best known for the Far Right political views she shares on social media. But back in 2007 she was a contestant on The Apprentice and made it all the way through the interview stages. In those early series the winner did not get £250,000 investment for their own business, but a job working for Lord Sugar.

In the penultimate boardroom the brand consultant and mother-of-three was put on the spot by Lord Sugar to think long and hard about whether she actually was able to take on the role of his apprentice if she won. Hopkins confessed she would have to move her family in order to take up the position, and she had not yet asked her parents, who cared for her children, how they would feel about that.

Lord Sugar told her: "I haven't got the time!" And asked her is she might want to concede her position in the final, rather than make him choose between rival contestants Kristina Grimes and eventual winner Simon Ambrose.

Hopkins told him: "I don't want to make a fool of you and don't want to make a fool of me. I think it's more important that have the courtesy to get my plans in place first. And therefore I suggest I stand down." And she walked out of the boardroom before Lord Sugar had the chance to fire her.

The Apprentice starts on Thursday, 1 February at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer.

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