Trump still invested in The Apprentice

Although US President-elect Donald Trump is not starring in NBC's coming season of The New Celebrity Apprentice, he will still be credited as one of the show's executive producers
Although US President-elect Donald Trump is not starring in NBC's coming season of The New Celebrity Apprentice, he will still be credited as one of the show's executive producersPHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • United States President-elect Donald Trump may have leapt from reality TV show success to the highest echelons of political power, but that does not mean he is ready to give up the reality-show part just yet.

Although he is not starring in NBC's coming season of The New Celebrity Apprentice, he will still be credited as one of the show's executive producers, a spokesman for producer Mark Burnett, creator of The Apprentice franchise, said on Thursday.

MGM, Burnett's studio, declined to comment on what Mr Trump would be paid in the new season, which will feature actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the show's power- wielding businessman.

But in the past, Mr Trump has held as much as a 50 per cent stake in The Apprentice and received payments from the show's international editions and a short-lived version that starred homemaking maven Martha Stewart.

"Mr Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett," Ms Hope Hicks, Mr Trump's spokesman, said on Thursday. She confirmed she was referring to a financial stake.

For an incoming President whose business holdings have already drawn ethical scrutiny, Mr Trump's continuing involvement with The Apprentice could spawn a new round of questions about conflicts of interest.

For NBC, which nurtured his celebrity until he left the show last year to pursue a presidential bid, the fact that the President-elect stands to profit from the programme could raise concerns about how a politically polarised audience may react to one of its biggest prime-time shows.

Schwarzenegger's first episode airs on Jan 2 and major firms have signed on as sponsors. NBC declined to comment on Mr Trump's producing credit.

Mr Trump, for months, has shown a keen interest in how Schwarzenegger might perform as host, asking friends and even campaign crowds: "How do you think Arnold's going to do?"

During an interview in May about his history with The Apprentice, he made it clear that he remained invested in the programme, emotionally and otherwise. "You know I have a big chunk of that show, going forever. Mark and I did it together. We were 50-50 partners."

They are on good terms, even though Burnett issued a statement in October denouncing Mr Trump's candidacy, referring to "the hatred, division and misogyny that has been a very unfortunate part of his campaign".

This week, Burnett met privately with Mr Trump and suggested ideas for his inauguration.

During the interview in May, Mr Trump said he had not spoken to Schwarzenegger about the programme. "I don't know how he is going to do," he said, "but I hope he does well."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'Trump still invested in The Apprentice'. Print Edition | Subscribe