Bill Rancic is now Donald Trump’s Apprentice.
A two-hour finale concluded the 13-week NBC series, with the 32-year-old cigar business owner edging out Harvard MBA Kwame Jackson.
(MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)
Rancic had been a steady performer in what has been the longest, toughest, and most-watched job interview. He really shone in his final task — organizing and executing a golf tournament in the span of three days.
Rancic’s prize was a job with a $250,000 salary, and an astounding offer: He was asked to choose between managing a new, sprawling California golf estate, or overseeing the construction of a high-rise Trump tower in Chicago.
After a three-minute commercial break, an overjoyed Rancic chose the Trump tower and to remain in his hometown of Chicago. The 90-story building is slated to be completed by 2007. He also received a Chrysler Crossfire convertible.
Fans were split
Coming into the final episode, fans of the show were split on whether the final apprentice should be Rancic, or Jackson.
Internet voting sites, Las Vegas casinos, Apprentice contestants themselves, and Trump’s own advisers were split almost 50-50.
The two-hour finale — despite the best efforts at editing and suspenseful storytelling — showed that the competition wasn’t even close.
The gaffes Rancic ran into during his multi-part task were relatively minor: a lost advertising sign, a cluttered office, a goody-bag table that wasn’t where he wanted it to be, and some frost that delayed the tournament's tee-off.
Rancic, who appeared tense to his staff, impressed Carolyn Kepcher, chief operating officer of Trump National Golf Clubs, and even Trump himself, who participated in (and won) the tournament.
Kwame Jackson, meanwhile, was assigned to help organize a concert at the Trump Taj Mahal at Atlantic City. At the end of the second to the last episode, Jackson’s team managed to misplace singer Jessica Simpson.
It only got worse: The VIP breakfast was problematic (the catering staff did not know what time the breakfast was going to be), and the meet-and-greet event for the pop star was disorganized.
It turned out that the only person who performed well at the Trump Taj Mahal was Jessica Simpson at her own concert.
Simpson vs. golf
For the first time in the series, contestants were given two different, although similar, tasks, which made comparing the two contestants a bit harder. One of the main arguments in the last boardroom was deciding which was the more difficult task — managing a golf tournament or a pop concert. That issue was debated by Jackson and Rancic, and even by Trump’s advisers Kepcher and George Ross.
On one hand, managing a pop concert meant having to impress two big shots — Jessica Simpson, and Donald Trump. It involved fans and more people coming into a casino.
A golf tournament however, meant Rancic had to deal with sponsors and Trump’s business associates, not employees.
But the candidates were judged only partially for the result of their tasks. What Trump looked at was their performance, as well as the character both contestants displayed.
Where Rancic and Jackson differed
Rancic showed good judgment in picking a better team. Amy Henry (who actually might have been a worthier opponent for Rancic) was his first choice. Katrina Campins, Nick Warnock, were also chosen — both good strong players. This is the same team that beat Jackson’s in two previous assignments.
Rancic was able to motivate recently-fired contestants Henry and Warnock. All of his employees worked hard and seemed like they wanted him to win.
While McClain was loyal to Jackson, Bressler was unsure of her role, and Manigault-Stallworth was just making sure she was having a grand old time.
It was also obvious that the two contestants also had very different management styles. Rancic felt the constant need to check up on his employees. Henry and Campins, both competent, were somewhat aggravated by this.
Jackson, on the other hand, delegated too much and knew too little. Unfortunately, his blind trust in his employees was not deserved. His employees passed jobs on to one another. Their group did not seem to have a working schedule a must for every event — which caused a breakdown in communication.
Donald Trump seems to have made his decision based on how both men managed their employees. It was his mishandling of Manigault-Stallworth that was Jackson’s downfall. Had he berated her after one of her many mistakes, or fired her when she flat-out lied about handling Jessica Simpson’s transportation, then Jackson might have stood a chance. But he did not even recognize the saboteur that Manigault-Stallworth turned out to be.
And despite audience speculation — Manigault-Stallworth was not a brilliant mole. She was just a really bad employee.
Future Apprentices can take some lessons from this final showdown
- Chose your teammates wisely. A leader is only as good as the people behind him.
- Sometimes, it’s better to be short one person on a staff, than to have a bad employee. No employee is indispensable.
- There’s a time for delegating, there’s a time for micromanaging. Managers need to accept the fact sometimes, that if you want to get the job done right, you have to do it yourself.
- Battle it out on the boardroom. Rancic spoke fast and furious at the boardroom, overshadowing Jackson. In the past, Jackson’s laid-back demeanor helped him fly under the radar. Having made it to the final episode, he really need to shine in the last challenge.
- Book smarts aren’t everything. Jackson had the credentials and the resume for the job, and it got him as far as the final episode. However, in the real world, or at least on a reality show, he simply needed to perform.
Rancic is ‘The Apprentice’ — but none of the other 15 contestants really lost. All of them had more than their 15 minutes of fame, and most, if not all of them, are receiving job offers.
Ousted contestant Sam Solovey may have even bought himself a job, as he offered Donald Trump $250,000 in a briefcase for the chance to work for him.
Mark Burnett has produced yet another reality show. Donald Trump has become a big TV star. And NBC, a network that is losing two of its hit sitcoms as "Friends" and "Frasier" are about to bow out, has found a new hit.
We should all be so lucky to be rolling in the "money, money, mo-ney."
Jesamyn Go is an associate Web producer for MSNBC-TV.