Video: Experts debate ‘Apprentice’ choice

Dateline NBC
updated 4/14/2004 11:39:01 PM ET 2004-04-15T03:39:01

It's down to the wire for Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. Think you know who will win, who should win? What, in the end, makes a good business person? Dateline gathered a panel of highly-successful entrepreneurs who know what it takes, along with someone who covers the ups and downs of the business world every day, CNBC's Ron Insana. Whom would they choose as their Apprentice?

After 13 weeks of selling, sparring, and schmoozing, it all comes down to two: Kwame versus Bill. Thursday night, we'll all learn the answer to the question Donald Trump has been tantalizing us with since January. As a business news anchor on CNBC, it's my job to stay ahead of the pack on who's coming up and who's going down. And you might think I’d have some inside information on this one, but it's not quite that simple. Even though we're both on the same television network, I'm no Donald Trump.

So to help me figure out who's got the edge, I assembled a group who've done some hiring and firing themselves in a boardroom of our own. Advertising executive Donny Deutsch, restaurateur B. Smith, fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, dotcom billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and TV host and executive producer Carson Daly.

We asked our experts to take a tough look at the candidates strengths and weaknesses, starting with Kwame.

Ron Insana: “He's got the resume got the job experience, worked on Wall Street, Harvard MBA.”

B. Smith: “But you know what the problem is, Kwame is not an entrepreneur. And as an entrepreneur there are certain traits that you have to have, you can't be nice.”

Donny Deutsch: “He doesn't have the fire in the eyes.”

Isaac Mizrahi: “But he's cute, okay.”

Smith: “Kwame is very good looking.”

Mizrahi: “Kwame is the cute one.”

Isaac was Kwame's biggest defender on our panel. Like Carson and Donny, he met some of the Apprentice contestants when he made a guest appearance on the show. And he says when the cameras weren't rolling, Kwame impressed him.

Mizrahi: “He was on the sidelines but that was fine because he didn't make a fool of himself like the rest of the clowns on that show, right?”

Isaac says when the taping was over, it was Kwame who approached the designer's staff to tie up loose ends left after the on-camera negotiating. But what about Kwame's tactics in the boardroom?

Insana: “He's not the guy who's scheming in the boardroom, who's setting up his political ducks getting them in a row and doing business behind the scenes.”

Carson Daly: “Kwame has been maybe smart enough to know that the other people around him don't possess the proper characteristics to work in the Trump organization. He might have spotted that and said you know what, I don't have to do too much I’m going to let these people eliminate themselves.”

Our experts gave Kwame a pass on his plan in episode one to sell lemonade near a smelly fish market.

Mark Cuban: “Make your mistakes early. If you're going to fall behind in an NBA game, fall behind in the first quarter, not the fourth quarter.”

But with the clock running down, Kwame seems on the brink of yet another disaster. Our experts were troubled by his laid back leadership as he and his team struggle to produce a Jessica Simpson concert.  

Smith: “We're dealing with a diva in Omarosa and the first thing he should have thought is, this is the person I should identify as the problem in my team.”

But as some of the team played host to Jessica's father, things only got worse.

Deutsch: “Why didn’t they just turn to the father, where's Jessica?”

Daly: “Because it's just a test. There's no way Jessica Simpson is lost, by the way. It's not possible, she's on the cover of every magazine.”

In our boardroom, most of the panelists were impressed by Bill. They liked his no nonsense approach to clients, even his tendency to steamroll over colleagues.

Insana: “Alright, [is he] too harsh, chastising someone for a five minute break?”

Group: “No, not at all, perfect, perfect.”

Cuban: “You're in a nonstop  battle. You know, business is war at times and if you let up at all that's an opportunity for the competition and right there he shows he recognizes that.”

But as much as they praised him, our experts said they'd be wary of hiring a maverick like Bill.

Insana: “Do you want to hire an entrepreneur to fit into a corporate job? Would you have hired yourself 20 years ago in a corporate job?”

Deutsch: “Hell no, not to work at a corporation, I'd fail terribly at it.”

Smith: “If I'm hiring somebody I can be the wildcard and let a Kwame be the straight man.”

Deutsch: “Is Trump looking to hire the best person to fit intoTrump or is this a contest of who is the best businessperson?””

Mizrahi: “Isn't it a ratings thing for god's sakes?” [Laughter]

And speaking of ratings, our panelists thought some of the women went a little too far with their sexy sales techniques.

Deutsch: “The women were so over the top.”

Still, it was a female contestant who got their vote as the game's MVP.

Insana: “Of all the contestants, who would be your top hire?”

Deutsch: “Amy.”

Cuban: “Yeah, probably Amy. She had all the qualities you look for.”

But on the final choice between Bill and Kwame, our experts couldn't quite reach a consensus.

Insana: “Best resume”

Group: “Kwame.”

Deutsch: “No Bill. The resume is not a piece of paper.”

Insana: “Best with clients?” 

Daly: “I'm going to say Bill.”

Mizrahi: “I don't think any of them are good with people, frankly.”

Cuban: “I would pick Kwame.” 

Insana: “Best at getting along with colleagues?”

Group: “Kwame.”

Daly: “To a fault.”

Smith: “Right.”

Insana: “Best at making a tough decision?”

Group: “Bill.”

Mizrahi: “Kwame.”

Carson: “Why is Jessica Simpson missing then?” [Laughter]

Overall, two of our panelists expect Kwame to win. Three predict victory for Bill. As for me, this is one boardroom showdown I won't be calling ahead of the pack. I'll be watching in real time, just like everyone else.

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