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Apprentice finalist defends wine investment plan

Tom Gearing is determined to prove Alan Sugar and The Apprentice judges wrong by expanding his fine wine investment business.

The Apprentice runner-up Tom Gearing has told Decanter.com that he is not deterred by Alan Sugar’s critique of his wine investment business plan as a potential ‘calamity’.

Gearing, 23, reached the final two in the latest series of the hit television show, but saw Sugar’s £250,000 investment kitty go to Ricky Martin. His wine investment plan was deemed too much of a gamble.

Gearing, a director and co-founder of fine wine investment firm Cult Wines Ltd, planned to recruit Sugar to help raise £25m from outside investors to create a wine investment fund.

‘Someone of my position in society cannot afford to be involved in something that goes wrong,’ Sugar told Gearing on the programme. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made lots and lots of mistakes, but this could be a calamity with my name associated with it.’

Even though one of Sugar’s co-interviewers said Gearing’s business plan was one of the best he’d seen, there was no getting around the main man’s cynicism over the scale of upfront funding needed.

‘At the moment, the Far East market is rampant,’ said Sugar. ‘[But] all it needs is one day for some analyst to stand up and say the Chinese are sick of wine now and bang, bosh goes your Chateau Mon Tromp, or whatever it is. It goes flying down from £200-a-bottle to £50 and then you’re lumbered with it.’

Speaking to Decanter.com after the final, Gearing stuck by his plan. ‘I think Sugar didn’t want to take on this level of risk at this stage of his career,’ he said. ‘I was happy with how it came across and I got some really good feedback.’

Gearing plans to continue to expand Cult Wines, having already received interest in fine wine investment from several institutional investors, including pension funds. ‘Cult Wines is already dealing with institutional investors in the UK,’ he said.

However, before that, he is going on holiday to Greece with his girlfriend after what he described as an incredible but intense experience. ‘Being in the process is so much harder than it actually looks on television,’ he said. ‘We are taken completely out of it for six weeks. They take your phone and you get one ten-minute phone call per week.’

Written by Chris Mercer

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