Alabbar withdrawal puts TV show in doubt

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has been forced to drop his high-profile role as the frontman of LBC’s The Apprentice television show, Arabian Business can reveal.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  March 27, 2005

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has been forced to drop his high-profile role as the frontman of LBC’s The Apprentice television show, Arabian Business can reveal. Alabbar, who was set to front the pan-Arab version of the Donald Trump show in the US, is believed to have succumbed to political pressure to give up his role in the programme. Sources close to the show suggest Alabbar has been asked to keep a low profile after having courted much controversy in recent weeks. “The Apprentice has been cancelled for now because a lot of inside pressure was applied to Mohammed Alabbar politically and from the powers that be at Emaar,” a senior television executive who wished to remain nameless told Arabian Business. “A new personality will have to be found to base the show on or it will have to be officially canned,” the source added. The Emaar boss visited Palestine last month and met senior Israelis to discuss a deal to buy 21 homes in the Gaza settlement. Shortly after his visit, Emaar announced the formation of a new company, Emaar Palestine. Rumours that Alabbar met with the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon during the trip angered key figures in the UAE government and are thought to have led to his withdrawal from the show. “Alabbar has had a lot of negative PR recently as a result of his trip to Israel,” the TV executive explained. “He’s in quite a bad situation politically and this has clearly affected the decision regarding his role in the show,” the source added. The Apprentice, which was due to run over a 15-week period from October this year, was set to pit several Arab contestants against each other in a bid to showcase their business skills. Like the US version of the show, the contestants would have had to solve a variety of business problems, negotiate deals and manage projects in competing teams. The winner was set to be given the chance to run one of Emaar’s companies and be paid US$300,000 a year. Losing the Emaar boss is a major embarrassment for LBC, which has ploughed hundreds of thousands of dollars into promoting the Alabbar fronted show. “The show was going to be based around one individual, which was Alabbar, but certain people obviously wanted him to keep a low profile,” said the TV executive. “It’s embarrassing for LBC because they put a lot of time, money and effort into adverts promoting the show.” However, Pierre Choueiry, the president of LBC’s regional media representatives, the Choueiry Group, claimed that the show has merely been postponed. “The Apprentice has not been cancelled, it has only been delayed,” he said. “There will be an official announcement regarding the status of the show in the coming weeks,” he added. Nevertheless, when asked if Alabbar would be fronting the show, Choueiry said: “We’ll have to wait and see.” This latest crisis follows a legal dispute between MediaGroup, the owner of rival reality show, CEO, and The Apprentice’s owner Freemantle Media.

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