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Michael Laungani the thirteenth 'Apprentice 5' contestant fired


By Tim Andrews, 05/09/2006 

Sometimes you can be nice in business, but being nice to your competition after they have consistently beaten you is just foolish -- a lesson that Michael Laungani, a 29-year-old management consultant from New York, NY, learned the hard way during last night's The Apprentice broadcast.

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The Apprentice 5's eleventh episode began with Synergy Corporation's members -- despite having won last week's task -- still arguing about the their prior boardroom session in which Sean Yazbeck had failed to support Allie Jablon in favor Andrea Lake, whom Donald Trump fired at the conclusion of the boardroom session. Refusing to get over the incident, the ongoing squabbles showed that despite the team's obvious talent in winning five of the competition's last six tasks, Synergy's three female members still hadn't come to recognize The Apprentice's motto: "itís not personal itís business."

The next day, the two-man Gold Rush Corporation and the four-person Synergy team met The Donald at Rutgers University's football stadium. Once there, they were given their new task -- to sell Outback Steakhouse food at competing tailgate parties during the Rutgers-Navy football game. In order to balance out the teams, The Donald asked Synergy who they wanted to give up to the other team -- an opportunity for which Sean, tired of being badgered by the Synergy women, quickly volunteered. Sean's move wound up pitting the three remaining male contestants against the three remaining female contestants -- a point Trump seemed to find both noteworthy and amusing.

Initially, everything appeared to go Gold Rush's way. After quickly working out an exclusive agreement for the Rutgers cheerleaders to support their event, Gold Rush further upstaged Synergy by passing out flyers for their event during the school's pep rally. Gold Rush also appeared to win the war of ideas, coming with multiple promotional ideas that appeared to ensure that they would have the better of the two events.

Gold Rush's one down point appeared to occur when Michael, who drew the "tough" assignment of working with the cheerleader squad, agreed with the cheerleader coach's suggestion that in light of Synergy's subsequent request that the cheerleader squad also attend their event, it would be "fair" to back out of their exclusivity agreement and share the cheerleaders with Synergy. Although Michael attempted to convince project manager Lee Bienstock that letting Synergy have one or two cheerleaders would be "a sign of good faith," Lee refused to buy into the suggestion. Sean also thought the idea was beyond ridiculous, noting that given that Gold Rush had lost seven of the competition's ten tasks, the team was not in a position to be making any good faith gestures.

Meanwhile, things weren't going nearly as well for Synergy. Not only had the cheerleaders entered into an exclusive agreement with Gold Rush and Synergy failed to have their flyers ready in time for the pep rally, but Gold Rush, tapping into what they boasted was their natural advantage given the "manly" nature of the task, appeared to have created a genuine campus buzz about their event. With things going from bad to worse, Synergy appeared to be headed for certain defeat.

On the day of the event, Gold Rush's activities and entertainment clearly made them the more popular tailgate event. However although they drew the bigger crowd, their food prices appeared to be a bit low, and some of the events like the eating contest appeared to be counter productive to the idea of selling food. Still, given they were competing against the non-event that was Synergy's tailgate party, things looked to be going well for the beleaguered Gold Rush squad until project manager Allie stumbled upon a new idea in tailgate sales: carside delivery. Charging significantly more than their Synergy counterparts but providing the added value of delivering the food to the tailgaters, Allie, Tammy Trenta and Roxanne Wilson were able to volume sell their products with multiple large order sales.

When it was time to announce the task results it was unclear which of the two approaches would prevail, as although it was obvious that the Gold Rush tailgate event had been superior in every way to Synergy's event, Synergy's carside delivery appeared to have proven itself very popular. Unfortunately for Gold Rush, the one key that they appeared to forget was that the assignment had not been an event task but a sales task -- and when the results were announced, Synergy had not only won but won convincingly. The win sent Synergyís all-girl team to a reward of making their own wine, including stomping on the grapes with their bare feet and having a custom label put on the bottles.

Before Gold Rush's boardroom session, both Michael and Lee approached Sean seeking his support. Sean clearly favored the idea that either of them should be fired instead of himself but remained largely diplomatic. During the boardroom, there was a lot of blame for everyone. The facts that it was clear the prices were set too low for the event, that the inclusion of an eating contest was in conflict with the goal of selling food, and that despite all their efforts in attracting customers, they had lost to Synergy by a huge margin were all discussed.

However despite all those points, the discussion kept coming back to one thing -- Michael's ridiculous suggestion that Gold Rush should have shared the cheerleaders with the other team. Despite the fact that he was overruled and it did not in fact happen, Trump deemed Michael's lack of judgment to be an unforgivable mistake, and despite the fact that Lee (who had been responsible for setting the food prices so low) was clearly more responsible for the loss, it was Michael who was fired.

(Photo credit NBC)


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