Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I'm currently watching Junior Apprentice, where Alan Sugar (better known among people my age and older for founding Amstrad) terrorises a small group of school-age entrepreneurs. It got me thinking.

Does anyone remember the Greek version of the Apprentice? Few do, and they despised it. It was hosted by the utterly un-groundbreaking Petros Kostopoulos, and exemplifies everything that is wrong with Greece.

The host was no Lord Sugar; his achievements did not start a new market, merely translated several tried and tested magazine formats (most of them directly by licencing) into the Greek market, giving us Greek men slightly glossier-looking women to wank to and endless lists of things we needed to do before we turned 30, all of which seemed to involve spending money but none of which ever seemed to include work.

Kostopoulos kick-started his media career in the press rooms of the Socialist Youth in the Greek 70s (he is apparently famous for an article denouncing the plight of our undersubsidised farmers - LOL). He worked under the notorious Kostas Laliotis (UK readers, think Lord Mandelson in the 80s), with whom he retained strong bonds while the latter worked as a minister for successive Socialist governments and Central Committe Secretary for our Socialist party. Kostopoulos' rise and rise in the 90s is said to be not unrelated to this  little bit of political connection - even if one considers only the less libellous rumours.

Nowadays Kostopoulos is all too eager to denounce the system that hand-reared him like a pet vulture chick. He rails about the superiority of people in "real business" to, presumably, those in subsidised business, in a tear-jerking deathbed conversion. And to think of all the times the centre-left's chief rag, to Vima, has kissed his meticulously waxed backside. Converted, and presumably with a copy of Atlas Shrugged in hand, he is now pursuing yet another brand-new, completely groundbreaking and utterly entrepreneurial dream: that of the reality talent show judge.

Back to our story: uniquely in the history of the Apprentice franchise, the Greek Apprentice only managed a solitary season in 2004 (available to view here) after bombing with less than 10% ratings. Simply put, people couldn't give a sh*t. The winner of this entrepreneurial challenge, this titanic clash for would-be masters of the universe, became a -wait for it- marketing consultant at IMAKO, Kostopoulos' publishing house. He does not appear to work there now and googling him, whether in Greek or Latin characters, returns absolutely zilch.

In a nutshell, the Greek Apprentice epitomised the decline of Greek enterprise: poisoned by politics and dodgy money, incapable of producing anything new or of real use to anyone, unbearably arrogant, as sticky as dogshit, and of course completely irrelevant to the majority of the Greek population, who don't see the point of bumming people in exchange for a permanent subsidy when one can take a shortcut and just become a civil servant.

Which brings me to the Turkish version of the Apprentice franchise: Çırak, a perfectly innocent word for "apprentice", which, as it happens, we Greeks have borrowed and now use to denote a lackey. Now that's a show that would have worked in Greece: "the lackey" (Το Τσιράκι), where hardened student politicians fight tooth and nail for the job of temporary assistant/researcher to an MP - or better yet, an MEP, who will not be labouring under austerity constraints.


IMAKO has now formally sought protection from its creditors, under what is now known as Chapter 99 in Greece. Kostopoulos himself claims to have put all of his personal wealth into the company - and lost it. Either way, some have pointed out that he, unlike a number of editors of supposedly socially sensitive defunct publications, at least propped up his ailing mags with his own money for some time before going under. That may be the case. At any rate, entrepreneurship is as much about failure as it is about success, I do not intend to cite this latest episode as a slight against the man's character. The stuff he used to publish has done that for me.

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