Brian Edwards Media

Terry Serepisos and The Apprentice Fiasco

TVNZ

TVNZ

TVNZ

TVNZ

TVNZ
TVNZ

I read that businessman Terry Serepisos owes the Wellington City Council $2 million in rates which he is unable to pay and has failed to repay several contractors who worked on his Century City Hotel in Wellington’s Tory Street. Mr Serepisos is reportedly worth $140 million but, since he is unable to do what much poorer folk like you and me are able to do – pay our bills – I take this to  mean that he is asset rich but cash poor.

Mr Serepisos  is also the ‘star’ of TV2’s The Apprentice programme – ‘star’ being someone who has made more than 5 appearances on the box  –  in which young entrepreneurs compete for a job in one of his companies at a salary or $200,000 a year. Were I one of these ‘entrepreneurs’ – a word incidentally mispronounced by every single television newsreader and reporter – I might have some anxiety as to whether, if I won the competition, my pay cheque really would be in the mail.

Mr Serepisos appears on The Apprentice presumably because he is a ‘tycoon’, but I’m inclined to think that the average Indian dairy owner, working 16 hours a day and paying his bills, would be a considerably better business role model than him.

The Wellington City Council’s reasons for extending $2 million dollars of credit to Mr Serepisos remain a mystery, but they may have accepted his explanation that because his debtors have failed to repay him, he cannot repay his creditors. No doubt there are thousands of New Zealanders, not worth $140 million, who wish their creditors would accept the same argument.

Despite his inability to pay his debts, Mr Serepisos is treated by the budding entrepreneurs on The Apprentice as though he were Moses returning from the mountain with the ten commandments of business. They fawn and toady in a most uncharacteristic New Zealand way. To be fair, this is what The Apprentice franchise demands.  But that makes the standing in line waiting for the prophet to appear, the pretentious limousine exits and boardroom entrances, the reverential ‘Good Mornings’ and the general obsequiousness no less stomach-turning. We don’t do this in Godzone.  Terry, however, seems to think we do, castigating one of the contestants for mispronouncing ‘Serepisos’ and another for daring to adddress him by his first name. (Sorry, Terry.)

As frontman for the New Zealand version of the programme, Mr Serepisos has the rare distinction of making Donald Trump look good. He lacks both authority and charisma and gives the appearance – I hope I am not doing him a disservice  – of delivering lines to camera that have been supplied to him by the producers of the programme. His decisions as to who to sack have ranged from the peremptory to the bizarre. On one occasion, when one team had simply annihilated the other, he decided, seemingly on a whim, not to sack anybody. This, of course, in addition to being utterly unfair to the winners of that particular task, made nonsense of the programme concept and was, I suspect, another example of the producers manipulating the format in the interests of retaining viewer interest and a cliff-hanger ending.  

Making Mr Serepisos himself look good are his two henchmen whose role is to observe the teams during the tasks, each looking as far as possible like the Grim Reaper. In half a century of television viewing, I cannot recall two more bizarre individuals, whose role in the boardroom is apparently to deliver all the really (scripted?) nasty lines to the contestants allowing Mr Serepisos to come across as quite a nice bloke, even if he can’t pay his bills.   

Fundamentally ‘un-New-Zealand’ too is the basic premise of the programme which each week requires those seeking the apprentice crown to shaft their former mates on the losing team in order to save their own skins. If I were Mr Serepisos, it might worry me that my new apprentice had crawled over the bodies of his or her gunned-down  comrades – gunned down by him or her – to get the job.

Well, there are now four would-be apprentices left. Mr Serepisos or his producers – I really have no idea which – will have to choose between a decent but slightly fey young woman, a really nice guy, a total idiot and an absolute bitch. I’m putting money on the final being between the really nice guy and the absolute bitch. That would be the cliff-hanger the producers are looking for. Because, like every other TV show, what drives the decisions on The Apprentice is not the actual merit or lack of merit of the contestants but the need to keep the punters tuning in – the ratings.

And a couple of footnotes:  Asked about his host’s inability to pay his multi-million dollar debts, Glenn Sims, managing director of Redflame Media and producer of The Apprentice, said: ‘I’m not worried about Terry’s credibility because all these attacks are Tall Poppy syndrome.’ Actually, Glenn, I think all these attacks are about a businessman who can’t pay his debts being promoted as someone budding entrepreneurs ought to look up to.

While TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said: ‘Serepisos’ private affairs are his own business, and we will not be commenting.’ The trouble is, Megan, when you put someone on your channel in prime time and call him a star, his business affairs, which are directly relevant to his role on your programme, cease to be private and become very much a matter of interest to the public and of public interest.

Can’t wait for this week’s episode!

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41 Comments:

  1. I can’t possibly comment because the whole premise, the obnoxious behaviour of Mr Big and his victims make such a program unwatchable, so I don’t! Another case of either them or me being in the wrong demographic!

  2. That program is fiction, not a documentary surely :-) So Terry can say whatever the writers want no matter how stupid.

    I don’t think enough kiwis are irrational or stupid enough to encourage local television to produce a program like that and intend anyone to take it seriously?

    Oh. right.

    • That program is fiction, not a documentary surely :-) So Terry can say whatever the writers want no matter how stupid.

      Actually the programme is neither fiction nor a documentary. All of the people who appear on it are real people, not actors, all are genuinely interested in getting a $200,00 a year job and the disappointment and sometimes anger they express when ‘sacked’ is very obvious. It’s possible Mr Serepisos’ judgements are his own, but it’s difficult not to see the hand of the producers in choreographing the outcome.

  3. I don’t like the way they call him ‘sir’, nor the ‘Mr Serepisos will see you now’. I can’t recall the last time I called an ‘authority figure’ sir nor someone saying to me that such-and-such will see me now.

    • I don’t like the way they call him ’sir’, nor the ‘Mr Serepisos will see you now’.

      Quite right. Not the Kiwi way. The last person I called Sir was the Duke of Edinburgh, whom I interviewed for my Saturday morning radio show. I have to say it stuck in my craw, especially since I’d decided I wouldn’t do it. But he, at least, is the Queen’s husband.

  4. Brian, I think we should give Mr. S the benefit of doubt and allow that he may be capable of choreographing the outcome himself.

    I’ve accepted that possibility. Giving him the benefit of the doubt might be going too far. You need to understand how television works. If keeping the right contestant on the show clashes with keeping the ratings, the ratings will win every time. No sensible employer would want to hire the total bitch, but you feel strongly about her and that’s good for ratings.

  5. I have never watched the programme, but it sounds like Masterchef (which I made the mistake of watching once) where a group of pompous arrogant nonentities (I hope you will not argue with the use of the word on this occasion)compete to be as offensive as possible. The problem with both these types of programmes is that the contestants have no backbone. If they did the judges would get a plate of noodles shoved in their faces, and Mr Serepisos would have his tie, whilst still attached to his neck, inserted into the office shredder.

    My one recollection of Mr S is a birthday bash he had some years ago attend by a thousand or so and he wittered on to the DomPost about this being evidence of how many friends he had. I wonder how many friends he has now.

    The other thing that strikes me is that with all those to whom he owes money, there appears to be some long runnig dispute regarding workmanship or design. This suggests that Mr S is either very careless in his selection of contractor or Wellington is riddled with incompetent builders.

    Have to go; I am nipping out to buy a season ticket for the Phoenix in the hope this will get me a discount off my rates.

    • The problem with both these types of programmes is that the contestants have no backbone.

      Couldn’t agree more. One could add this to the qualities required to become the apprentice: disloyalty to colleagues; sychophancy; cowardice.

  6. Where The Apprentice meets The Sopranos.
    Two quite disparate TV shows intersect by way of Terry Serepisos’s incarnation of “The Donald”. Let’s face it: he is quite telegenic. Even if he can’t boast Trump’s coiffed hairdo, he more than makes up with gel. His other aesthetic attributes, by way of his Maclean’s-white pearlers replicating a perfect set of dentures, gives further resonance to the show’s “glamour” quotient. Together, with his sullen Mafia emissary-type sycophants and unwelcomed revelations about his brother, just adds a further layer of intrigue to the show’s narrative. And it’s just come to pass, that, the High Prince of Tory Street, is not only on Wellington’s social register, but he features prominently on Veda Advantage’s one, too.

    I’ve not sat through an episode of ‘The Apprentice’, but the show has always struck me as being somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps, reflective of the man, himself.
    “I take this to mean that he is asset rich but cash poor”. Probable translation: He’s over-leveraged and the larder is bare.

    The programme’s leitmotif: “You’re fired!” — analogous to being demeaned and humiliated — could very well come back to haunt the show’s principal castmember. If he can’t pay his rates and the tradespeople etc, then, there’s
    going to be cacophony of alarm bells going off, soon, to rattle not only his bankers and mezzanine financiers, but also the penthouse residents in a certain Hobson St. complex.

    What we’re reading about Terry Serepisos, is not good; it’s not good for the remaining contestants, not good for Redflame Media, and it is not good for TVNZ’s credibility (nor the viewers). And this is not a particularly good look for Wellington City Council — especially, for Kerry Prendergast. It’s been reported that the mayor’s developer-husband is a good friend of Terry; and their friendly relationship is instrumental in the council adopting a very forgiving approach, when it comes to imposing the mandatory late-penalty fees. A consideration not afforded to the average ratepayer. Or, maybe, the doyen of Wellington football, is deserving of a hospital pass, for invigorating the city’s sporting feel-good factor, with his ownership of the Phoenix.

    “Can’t wait for this week’s episode!” If it turns out, that Terry can’t stump up with the booty for the winning contestant, this is going to be a very “bad look” for TVNZ. The viewers will feel they’ve been duped. Big time. And it will be the reverse of “art imitating life”.

  7. more trouble brewing on this story

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/3621081/Terry-Serepisos-accused-of-bouncing-cheques

    i can’t see TVNZ maintaining the farce of his private life being irrelevant to the show for much longer, no matter how much they’d like to.

  8. I basically stopped watching TV around eight-ten years ago. I gave up on regularly watching the T.V. news, the last regular T.V. watching I did, around five years ago.

    When you don’t watch any T.V. looking at any of these shows is a jarring experience. As someone who reads a lot and downloads all sorts of podcasts from PBS, the BBC, etc etc to listen to I find almost all free to air T.V. to be frankly vulgar, crude and mindlessly childish.

    The very last thing reality T.V. is real. It is entirely contrived. Shady property developers are elevated to an exalted status that they may even be stupid enough to start believing themselves. If they do, they become in a sense as big a victim as those who they are encouraged to treat rudely for the voyeuristic enjoyment of others.

    All of this shouldn’t matter; I don’t watch these shows and therefore the philistines who make and schedule the TV shows are not interested in the opinion of someone they would undoubtably would glibly dismiss as “an out of touch elitist”.

    But you know, encouraging people to watch and enjoy the ritual degradation and humiliation of others, encouraging people to enjoy watching anyone deemed inferior to be treated as not deserving of simple courtest and dignity occurs to me to be an uncontrolled Stanford prison experiment carried out every night, week after week after week in our nations living rooms. And THAT should alarm us all very much indeed.

  9. Thanks BE, I read this with amusement especially your comment about sir’s sidekicks.
    So tell me – what is the correct pronunciation of entrepreneur? Surely language is an evolving creature and we must accept deviations? Even if it’s cringeworthy?

    Ben – I disagree with your comment about the wouldbe masterchefs…Most of them seem to be incredibly unsure of their ‘talents’ rather than arrogant…

    • Thanks BE, I read this with amusement especially your comment about sir’s sidekicks.
      So tell me – what is the correct pronunciation of entrepreneur? Surely language is an evolving creature and we must accept deviations? Even if it’s cringeworthy?

      I’m no good at phoenetics, so here’s my crude explanation. The word is French in origin. The final syllable ‘eurs’ should be pronounced like the word ‘errs’, and not as though it were spelt ‘oors’, as in ‘tours’. We probably have the Americans to blame for this infection. Common usage or not, it offends my ears.

  10. Whats scary to me ,I havent watched this particular show ,is that people tend to think this is the way the world works.It may well work this way in the board rooms of the rich unscrupulous and famous /infamous .This programme doesnt set a good example of how I would like my world to act.This ,without viewing looks like a blue print for the Act party manifesto where rich and famous exert their egotistical nonsense over other lesser beings.This isnt produced by Julie Chrisie is it?

  11. Amelia, you misunderstand me. It is not the would be Masterchefs I was getting at, apart from their lack of spinal support. It was the judges who appear to have modelled their behaviour on the guards in a ‘b-movie’ about Stalag Luft XIII or worse they have taken on the persona of Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes.

    I cannot believe that someone is voluntarily prepared to expose themselves to the humiliation that the contestants undergo.

  12. 12

    As usual Brian, you sum the programme up well, though I suspect you held a lot back.

    From a business perspective it should be an important programme, but in my view it’s certainly not achieved that status.

    I suspect – because I’ve only watched two episodes – that the best people have been sacked.

    Its a pity TV can’t meet its potential – it wouldn’t take that much to convert this sort of rubbish to something highly educative, interesting and worthwhile.

  13. I understood that if you apparently owed a lot of money like the odd million or two, you were not allowed to leave the country. What’s the bet that Mr Serepisos appears skiing on the other side of the world, for a decade or two?

    • I understood that if you apparently owed a lot of money like the odd million or two, you were not allowed to leave the country

      I don’t know the law on that, but if the people you owe the money to aren’t concerned – and the Wellington City Council doesn’t seem to be concerned about the 2 million – then presumably you’re as free as a bird to go where you want. But I doubt that Mr Serepisos is thinking of fleeing New Zealand.

  14. the issue for me is not terrys ability to pay the bills- we all self employed people have been stressed like this; but the way wellington city council has lied about this and cretaed a double standard;

    1. my info says this has been going on 5 years, not 2-despite what the deputy mayor and ceo might say!
    2. the mayor and deputy mayor told all councillors last oct that it was ‘under control’
    3. how far were they prepared to go to carry this?
    4. how many others are in this situation?

    this situation by wcc has been created due to secrecy and backdoor deals and lack of transparency. Contrast this with David Gallop of NRL and the credibility he has due to being upfront and honest.

    wcc cannot apply a double standard to this because someone has a football team….whether you put ‘millions’ into the city should not lead to special treatment! If anone is in business and has issues; they take the hit – sell a building terry wat ever the cost and pay your dues!

    When I am elected mayor; there will be an open honest council that respects the rsponsibility to look after the ratepayers money!

    • wcc cannot apply a double standard to this because someone has a football team….whether you put ‘millions’ into the city should not lead to special treatment! If anone is in business and has issues; they take the hit – sell a building terry wat ever the cost and pay your dues!

      Precisely my own thinking. It doesn’t make sense to be (allegedly) worth $140 million and not be able to pay a $2 million bill and a few contractors.

      I gather you’re standing for the mayoralty. Keep in touch on developments on this issue.

  15. IMO TVNZ’s decision to put Spareteethfloss on this show can not have been based on his business acumen or ethics as they are both appear to be sadly lacking.
    As I read on another blog – There is reason someone poured a pail of paint into his car.

  16. I don’t have any faith in TVNZ doing any due diligence. I don’t know if any of you remember that bloke Kevin Abdulrehman who was giving away a Ferrari on the breakfast show with Paul..I heard that car got repossessed by GE Money.. surely TVNZ would have at least checked whether or not the car was on tap. That was rediculas. Now this blunder, seems they don’t do any back ground checks… Just last week they were promoting “that clown” Ali Williams and his so called water for everyone. It is very disappointing to see these kinds of shows going on without TVNZ taking any responsibility.

    • I don’t have any faith in TVNZ doing any due diligence.

      I agree that TVNZ should have taken a closer look at the claims made by Williams and McCaw about their product – bottled water: Healthy, convenient and cheap. No more healthy than tap water; no more convenient than tap water; and considerably more expensive than tap water. Like all bottled water – unless you’re living in the third world – a completely purposeless product. [Your comment slightly edited for reasons of defamation.]

  17. Bravo Brian
    Loved your pithy little statement on National radio this afternoon when asked by Noelle what advice you would give Terry (sleezeball).

    ” None “you said
    ” I charge for advice and I know he wouldn’t pay”

    How clever . How true

  18. I taped it. Man, what junk! This is television pumped up with silicone implants, botox and collagen; and a surgical knife for the facelift and nip ‘n’ tuck. All applied with gay abandon. So stagey.
    The last three, standing, should be tasked with meeting with the Wellington City Council and the raft of other creditors, to work out a repayment schedule for Mr. Serepisos, Sir.

  19. The thing that strikes me most about about “The Apprentice’ is it’s unashamed glorification of dog eat dog capitalism. Your’e right about it being un-kiwi Brian. Iv’e always thought that most kiwis are “small s” socialsists at heart but propaganda like this distorts their perception of themselves.
    P.s the aussie Masterchef wasn’t all that bad and the much less overblown UK version was quite watchable.

  20. I watched it for the first time last night (Tuesday 27) – Serepisos sacked Karen because she was, in his words “honest and had integrity”. What does that tell you about Serepisos?

    • I watched it for the first time last night (Tuesday 27) – Serepisos sacked Karen because she was, in his words “honest and had integrity”. What does that tell you about Serepisos?

      Yes, quite preposterous. But you can see the production team’s thinking on this. Much more interesting, and likely to keep the punters watching, to keep a back-stabbing cretin than someone with honesty and integrity. At least we can now identify the really nice guy and the total bitch.

  21. Whatever one’s views on Mr S I would guess that viewing figures for last Tuesday’s episode soared; so one up to TVNZ!

    I debated whether to watch it and decided I did not want to play TVNZ’s game. Given the probable success of this series I imagine the next series will feature Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin demonstrating their approach to business ethics.

  22. Do participants get paid for their role? Maybe they get chosen to be loser, or likeable, or bitchy and one to be the WINNER! How would you find out re pay, but I bet they have signed a document of secrecy!

  23. Yet another example of junk TV copied from the States. I struggle for the life of me to see why anyone would watch such rubbish

  24. Interesting post and comments.
    With regards to heavily scripted ‘reality TV’ programmes such as this one, one can’t help but ponder the relationship between ‘TV imitating life’ and ‘life imitating TV’.
    I suspect it’s a reciprocal relationship of sorts, which would help to explain why we accept, and indeed invite, behaviour and attitudes that were considered fundamentally inappropriate in this country just a few decades ago.

    • I suspect it’s a reciprocal relationship of sorts, which would help to explain why we accept, and indeed invite, behaviour and attitudes that were considered fundamentally inappropriate in this country just a few decades ago.

      Perceptive thought.

  25. @Coasta

    Comparing a car give-away by a private individual with a legitimate challenge of an FMCG product on a TV series that has done similar challenges week-on-week is probably a little far fetched. I’m not sure how the link is made to ‘due diligence’ or a lack of. Thanks for your comments.

  26. @BE
    Thanks for your comments. I respectfully disagree that the product Water For Everyone, featured on The Apprentice was misrepresented…

    1) Healthy: See http://www.3news.co.nz/12M-cows-pooing-into-Aucklands-water-supply/tabid/367/articleID/153447/Default.aspx for a recent review on municipal supply concerns over water safety. I can assure you, Water For Everyone is pure, unadulterated, and healthy!

    Also, when compared to other convenient on-the-go choices, Water For Everyone stands alone as the most healthy choice. We’re not just comparing ourselves to other water choices, but other beverages available.

    2) Convenient: When out and about, tap water (assuming it is safe and healthy) is not always conveniently available. Bottled Water is in such cases convenient. Of course, at home, again assuming it’s safe and healthy, logic is clear that tap water is more convenient than running down to the shop to buy a bottle of Water For Everyone! We’re not claiming that Water For Everyone is more convenient, at all times and in every case, we’re just saying Water For Everyone is a convenient product. We know there’s lots of kiwis who agree!

    3) Cheap – again please, review in context. Bottled Water is likely to be more expensive than tap water. The show, given editing time and air time inevitably places a limit on what can be said, so in fairness, the claims of Healthy, Convenient and Affordable shouldn’t be pigeon holed into a direct comparison. Of course you’re welcome to, but it’s a little one-sided. Water For Everyone is a convenient, healthy and affordable brand of beverage. You could stand in the rain and bottle it yourself to save paying your rates for water, but my guess is you don’t. Many consumers around the world also choose bottled water for it’s convenience, and affordability. When they choose Water For Everyone, they also choose to give back, because we give 5c from every For Everyone unit sold, to the For Everyone Charitable Foundation. All in all, we say it’s Good For Everyone.

    • Thanks for your comments. I respectfully disagree that the product Water For Everyone, featured on The Apprentice was misrepresented…

      This is what I said in response to a reader’s comment: “I agree that TVNZ should have taken a closer look at the claims made by Williams and McCaw about their product – bottled water: Healthy, convenient and cheap. No more healthy than tap water; no more convenient than tap water; and considerably more expensive than tap water. Like all bottled water – unless you’re living in the third world – a completely purposeless product.”

      I’m standing by that. I can understand that as someone involved with a company producing bottled water, you would not be happy with my viewpoint. But the thing you’re complaining about in my response is exactly what is wrong with the complaint itself – lack of context. Healthy, convenient and cheap , in what was in effect an advertisement for your product, only have real meaning when placed in the context of competing products. The subtext is – compared to what? For the vast majority of New Zealanders your product is no healthier than tap water and, if you take into account fluoridation, arguably less healthy. For the vast majority of New Zealanders, your product is less convenient than tap water. It is only more convenient in certain limited and specific situations. For the vast majority of New Zealanders your product is vastly more expensive than tap water. I’m not saying that the use of these words is dishonest, but that they are true only in certain specific situations. The only reason for advertising something as healthy, convenient and cheap is to suggest or put in the prospective buyer’s mind the idea that other, similar products (including tap water in this case) are less healthy, less convenient and less cheap. Not so.

  27. @BE

    There is no unhappiness with your viewpoint Brian – you’re welcome to it…I just respectfully disagree. I stand by the ‘claims’ made on the TV show. Our product is healthy, affordable, and convenient, and in certain situations more so (or from your perspective less!) than others.

    Rather than go round and round to disagree with your ‘vast majority of’ and other subjective claims, I stand by the position taken, and have no issue with it being televised. I believe that Water For Everyone becomes an even more healthy, convenient and affordable option especially when compared to the vast majority of other, similar products.

    When you’re next out and about, I invite you to enjoy a bottle or two, and join the many other New Zealanders who do so! ;-)

  28. @ Cam: “Water For Everyone becomes an even more healthy, convenient and affordable option especially when compared to the vast majority of other, similar products”.

    Dude, you’re a shameless huckster! How you can stand in front of a mirror, and not wear a cretinous smirk on your oily face, is beyond my friggin’ comprehension.

  29. Whatever happened to those TV shows, where you laughed with the victim, not at him?
    What ever happened to those TV shows, where compassion and respect for oneanother wre the theme, rather that today’s focus on “”the rich get richer, the weak go to the wall”?
    I recently found a collection of rental DVD’s, theming Elvis Pressly as the hero who always got his lady. Delightfully 50ish and no doubt to us enlightened moderns, totaly naive, but whose stories were kind hearted, not vicious, spitefull, and cruel.
    Shows and public comments that marginalise and denigrate and put-down, I find distatstefull and divisive. Intellectualised spite versus grass roots careing and compassion??
    I know which one I would chose…

    • Whatever happened to those TV shows, where you laughed with the victim, not at him?

      I’m with you completely, John. There are even more humiliating shows on Japanese TV. No doubt they’ll arrive here eventually.