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Jul 13, 2011

AirAsia’s Fernandes to helm The Apprentice Asia

SINGAPORE – The Apprentice Asia has finally found someone to fill the all-important Donald Trump role - in the form of AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes.

Tony Fernandes will helm The Apprentice Asia
Tony Fernandes will helm The Apprentice Asia

The format, which has been a major hit both sides of the Atlantic, has been a long time coming to Asia. The show was announced, and will be produced, by RGM Media.

RGM CEO Devesh Chetty said they are tremendously excited to have Tony on board.

“Not only is he a great and charismatic businessman; he is also a personality Asians have come to associate with worldwide success," said Chetty.

With other announcements expected within the month, Chetty told Campaign that RGM is actively looking at some key sponsors. With each episode tending to feature a business task around a particular brand, the show lends itself to advertiser support. “We don’t foresee it as a big task bringing the brands on board,” he said, adding that they have been in talks with Phar, which handles AirAsia's media assets.

One of Asia's youngest and most celebrated business leaders, 47-year old Fernandes heads up Malaysian entertainment and leisure conglomerate, Tune Group Sdn Bhd, parent company to AirAsia and the Formula One team Lotus Racing.

He pioneered budget air travel in Asia with the 2001 launch if AirAsia, which has grown to become the largest no-frills airline in Southeast Asia

Fernandes said he can't wait to throw some really interesting challenges to the contestants, “So they can show the world what the new generation of Asian business executives are made of."

He recently won a bet that saw rival F1 owner, and former boss Richard Branson don a stewardess outfit and serve on an AirAsia flight.

Mark Burnett Productions, which created and produces The Apprentice, had been looking for opportunities for an Asian version. Back in 2008, when Burnett was in Singapore for The Contender Asia, he said he was hopeful The Apprentice Asia might finally come to fruition the following year.

But finding the right business person to fulfil the Trump/Sugar role has until now proved a stumbling block, with many Asian entrepreneurs recognisable only to TV audiences in their native countries.

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