Feature Week of April 25, 2004
THE BLACK APPRENTICE: KWAME’S GETTING PAID
"I think street-smarts are more important than book-smarts but luckily I have both."-Kwame Jackson
It turns out that The Apprentice's Kwame Jackson, a 30-year-old Harvard MBA, is a guy everybody wants on their team.
If you are one of the 20 million viewers of the NBC show, The Apprentice, first, bear in mind nothing in it bears any resemblance to real management. Many say: “The Apprentice is to the real business world what Homer Simpson is to real fatherhood.” The reality is that the television show is just that - a television show. The menial tasks Trump had the contestants doing made it more of a scavenger hunt than a real interview-type process – it was entertainment, first and foremost. But, the show became a water cooler hit, with most of viewers’ debates focused around the African American femme fatale, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.
The finale of The Apprentice was a tense two-hour showdown between Bill Rancic and the smooth African American, Kwame Jackson. Dot-com entrepreneur, real-estate developer and cigar salesman Bill Rancic won the $250,000-a-year job, a car and the right to call himself Donald Trump's "apprentice." Though the finale pitted an African-American man against a white one, the show's racial tension centered on Mrs. Manigault-Stallworth, who emerged as the "reality" TV stereotype, the Angry Black Woman. She accused a teammate of uttering a racial slur, and in the end was even caught lying - on camera. Her behavior as a member of Kwame's team was so obstructive as to suggest she'd actually been directed to test his mettle with acts of sabotage.
But, viewers don’t have to worry about Brother Kwame. He will do work for the owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban; and has started an entertainment company, Legacy Communications Group, to produce films, video games, live events and a concert series. One of Legacy’s first projects will be helping to raise $2.5 million for a documentary on Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, a project by filmmaker George Butler. The job with Cuban involves handling an investment portfolio and working on operations for the Mavericks.
Kwame was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Charlotte, NC. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Harvard MBA. Heavily involved in several "dot-com" start-ups during his time in business school, Kwame’s Fortune 500 professional foundation includes sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble and, most recently, on Wall Street as an Investment Manager for Goldman Sachs.
His new boss is an American success story. Just 45, Cuban has a net worth of $1.3 billion and was number 179 on Forbes list of the richest Americans last year. Born in Pittsburgh, Cuban went to Indiana University. After graduation, he started a computer consulting company and eventually built MicroSolutions, Inc., into a powerhouse he sold to CompuServe for millions in 1990. In 1995, while living in Dallas, Cuban began to wonder if he could use the Internet as a way to hear Indiana University basketball games. He and a partner started Broadcast.com to stream audio signals over the web. The company operated on a shoestring for years, but was ultimately sold to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5 billion dollars, allowing 300 employees to become millionaires and Cuban to realize a $2 billion windfall.
The Apprentice program has been lucrative for Donald Trump. His new NBC deal will pay him about $1 million for each new episode. The show's audience ranked No. 1 among prime-time series - a median household income of $68,093. Its median viewer age was 38.6 - audience averages seven years younger than NBC's median and the third-youngest series. It was the No. 1 new series and No. 7 among all shows, averaging 19.6 million viewers. In the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-old group, it was No.1 among new shows and third overall.
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