TV Article

Suits and Ladders

The ''The Apprentice'''s top two dish to EW - Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson open up about obstacles, opportunities, and Omarosa

Will Bill hire any of his fellow contestants? Why didn't Kwame fire Omarosa? Does Bill know anything about building skyscrapers? The Apprentice's finale brought in ratings that finally lived up to Donald Trump's bragging: a season-high 28 million viewers for NBC. But it left us with lots of questions. We fired a few of our burning queries at winner Bill Rancic, 32, a cigar entrepreneur from Chicago, and runner-up Kwame Jackson, 30, a New York City investment banker.

Bill

Did you really not know you'd won until the live finale? You didn't get a clue in the months between taping the final task and being on stage?

That was as authentic as it's ever been. When [Trump] started talking about Kwame, I thought he was going to say, ''But Kwame, you're still hired.'' Because he likes to throw people off on where he's going. So when he said, ''Bill, you're hired,'' I was stunned.

How do you feel about the new job -- overseeing the construction of Trump's high-rise on the site of the Chicago Sun-Times offices in your hometown?

That Sun-Times building needs to goit is the ugliest building in the city. I knew the project was happening, and in the back of my mind I hoped that was it. But I had an inkling that it was going to be the Miss Universe pageant because it was Trump and NBC. So this was a sweet surprise for me.

After starting your own multimillion-dollar company, why'd you want this gig so much?

For me, it's not about the money. Once you get the fundamentals of business down, it doesn't matter what you put on top of it, whether it's real estate or cigars or hamburger. I'm not a cigar smoker, but I saw an opportunity and seized it.

What will happen to your cigar company?

I sold it [before being cast on the show] to a company out in New York called Synergy Brands. I was staying on to help run the company, and I'm going to help them out in any way I can. Really, I develop real estate in Chicago instead. That's where I've been making my bread and butter, but now I'll probably be giving this 100 percent of my energy. You know, it's only a 90-story high-rise.

Would you hire any of your fellow contestants?

I'm sure Mr. Trump and myself are going to sit down in the next couple of weeks and iron out the plan. I have to look at the project and see whose skills fit it best.

Do you know anything about huge construction projects like this?

Absolutely not. I'll have to learn. I've done some buildings in the city, but certainly not a luxury 90-story high-rise where units start at $600,000.

Kwame

Why didn't you fire Omarosa after she returned for the finale?

I did not get the reality TV memo that I could fire other contestants. At the time, I just thought she was spacing out. But watching the tape, it looked like she was trying to sabotage me.

So, what's next for you?

I've gotten a few offers in the few days since the finale -- and I'm 1,400 e-mails behind. There's this offer at Kircaali Media [the publisher, whose magazines include International Yacht Vacations & Charters, wants Kwame to be CEO]. And the offer from Mark Cuban [to manage a portion of the billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner's portfolio]. And I want to start my own company called Legacy Communications Group -- it would be like a small-scale Vivendi, with direct-to-DVD movies, videogames, and live events.

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