Student Life

CHATTERBOX: ‘I just enrolled Trump in a basketball league’

Lee Bienstock, runner-up on the hit reality series, The Apprentice, talks about New York, the corporate lifestyle and hanging out with Donald Trump. Speaking at the Hillel House, the recent college grad and high-profile business guru tells McGill students about his rise to the top of the Trump Towers.

You have quite a strong friendship with both Donald Trump and with Sean Yazbeck. The final challenge was pretty intense. Do you think the age factor contributed to your loss?

It might have been an age factor; it might have been an experience factor. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think they kept me around because I was a good TV character. … I’m man enough to admit that I should have been fired at [earlier] times. Maybe Trump wanted me to stick around because he thought I was stronger [on TV].

Did you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement when working for NBC? Could you say anything about Trump, be it good or bad?

I now work for the man [laughs]. If I said anything bad about him I’d be gone. The list of things that I was not allowed to do was so long. … I couldn’t talk about anything. After I got fired and re-hired, things became a little more lenient.

Is the show a farce? How well does it mirror an actual business environment?

The show is not a farce. … I think it mirrors a business environment incredibly well. There is a tremendous game aspect to it [the business world]. … I probably learned more…my eight weeks there [on The Apprentice] than I learned at Cornell. You learn so much in every path: advertising, marketing, strategy, sales.

Did your New York upbringing help you out on the show?

Absolutely. I don’t know how anyone could have been on the show, not having grown up in New York. … I knew how to get around, I knew…where things were, I knew the markets. If we were in a college town, I knew who we were selling to. If we were in more of an affluent area, I knew who our customers were there.

What do you do in your spare time?

Probably the same thing as you guys. Go out with my friends. I play basketball. I just enrolled Trump in a basketball league. I like to read.

What do you think of Canada?

It’s really nice here. … Of course, I’ve only seen two blocks. But from what I see it’s gorgeous. … I’ve skied up in Mount Tremblant with friends.

On MySpace, you mention that one of your favorite TV shows is American Idol. If the whole business-man thing doesn’t work out for you, do you think you’d have a shot at pop stardom?

If I could sing.

What about Dancing with the Stars, then?

That would be even worse. I like television shows that are very competitive, but are a test of will. If someone on American Idol can just get up on stage like that and sing, I have enormous respect for that.


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