Birmingham City chief executive Karren Brady has seen off competition from some of the country’s leading businesswomen to a secure a starring role in The Apprentice.
The 40-year-old mother of two, who was the youngest and first female to run a football club when she was appointed in 1993, will take over from Margaret Mountford as Lord Sugar’s new “eyes and ears” in the forthcoming series of the hit BBC series.
It is believed that Michelle Mone, who founded the company behind the Ultimo bra, and Martha Lane Fox, the internet entrepreneur, were also considered for the job of replacing Miss Mountford, whose withering looks and cutting ripostes have been a highlight of previous series.
Ms Brady has become something of an institution at Birmingham City over the past two decades but there is speculation that she may look for new challenges away from the club once the proposed takeover Carson Yeung’s Grandtop International is completed.
Having spent her career taking on the chauvinists of the football establishment, Ms Brady would seem well placed to manage the famously spiky personality of Lord Sugar and she said she could not wait to get started.
“I am thrilled to be involved, having worked with Alan for 16 years,” she said. “It’s great to extend our relationship to the programme.”
Ms Brady, who is married to former Blues player and current Burton Albion manager Paul Peschisolido, already has some experience of The Apprentice, having led the women’s team in a one-off show for Comic Relief which saw them raise £776,000 for charity and humiliate the competing team of male celebrities.
She was also part of the team of business gurus who quizzed the final contestants in the last series of The Apprentice and famously lambasted one contestant for lying on her CV.
The appointment comes just a month after she and Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan were told that they would face no charges following a year-long police investigation into alleged football corruption.
Both were arrested for questioning but vehemently denied any wrongdoing and have been vocal in their criticism of the investigation.
Ms Brady will have a difficult act to follow in Miss Mountford, who had developed a double act with PR executive Nick Hewer to strike fear into the hardiest of candidates.
Miss Mountford became an unlikely television star, famed for rolling her eyes discreetly at the apprentices’ latest blunder.
On leaving the programme, she said: “I never had any desire for fame or TV stardom, but I’ve enjoyed discovering the world of making television.
“When we made the first series of The Apprentice for BBC2 in 2004/5, we had no idea how popular it would be or how long it would run. I thought it would just be a one-off. It has been a great experience.”