The Celebrity Apprentice star Donald Trump crowned author and talk show host Leeza Gibbons the winner during Monday night's finale episode of the NBC reality competition's seventh season.

Trump declared Leeza his next "Celebrity Apprentice" over runner-up Geraldo Rivera, a journalist and talk show host. In addition to all the money Leeza raised herself during the final task, she also received an additional $250,000 for her Leeza's Care Connection charity.

"We had an incredible season and an incredible set of players this year. However out of the 16 contestants Leeza clearly demonstrated that she had the ultimate skills necessary to be called the next Celebrity Apprentice," Trump said in a statement.

"The Celebrity Apprentice has proven time and time again to be the toughest reality show on television today. Leeza was able to win $714,000 for her charity, Leeza's Care Connection. I congratulate Leeza on her win and welcome her as the second woman to the elite group of winners including Piers Morgan, Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels, John Rich, Arsenio Hall and Trace Adkins. I'd also like to congratulate Geraldo on his tremendous effort and impressive gameplay."

Leeza competed under her mother's advice, which was to stay in her lane and focus on her own race.

"My goal was simply to show the kind of strength my mother had as she battled Alzheimer's disease and to honor those families who are care-giving," Leeza said in a separate statement. "I hope I did. With my winnings from the show, Donald Trump has made it possible for me to open a new Leeza's Care Connection in my hometown of Columbia, SC. Thank you to the Trump family, Mark Burnett and his incredible production team, NBC and all of my cast mates for making this a once in a lifetime experience." 

In comparison to Leeza's $714,000 raised, Geraldo finished the season with a total of $725,184 raised for his Life's WORC charity. The show earned $2 million altogether for charity this season.

The finale featured both contestants completing the seventh season's final task, which required them to each produce a commercial and sell vacation packages for Universal Orlando Resort. Leeza and Geraldo then made their presentations live in New York City during a star-studded red-carpet event. In addition to their commercials, Geraldo had Tony Orlando perform while Leeza asked Olivia Newton John to sing.

Once in the boardroom, Ivanka Trump and Don Trump Jr. revealed what the Universal Orlando Resort executives thought of each presentation. Geraldo's team incorporated celebrity into the commercial well and repeatedly mentioned the theme of "discover your inner hero." However, the presentation was disjointed and featured parents and kids having entirely different experiences at the park.

Leeza's presentation was "on point," especially with how she showcased different aspects of the theme park. She also tied her charity into the presentation. However, the topic of her commercial -- a father with an agenda for his family's day at the park -- didn't really engage viewers.

According to Trump, the competition "wasn't even close," and Leeza ended up winning the last task.

In terms of money raised just during the final task, Leeza brought in $324,000 compared to Geraldo's $146,000. Trump said Leeza's victory made an impact on the results, but each finalist was judged on his or her work as a whole throughout the season.

This season, Leeza had eight team wins and three team losses. Geraldo experienced four wins and seven losses. The majority of the seventh season's previously-eliminated contestants argued that Leeza should win, so that probably influenced Trump's decision as well.
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Before Trump revealed the champion, Geraldo said he deserved to win because Leeza would be the "safe choice." Geraldo thought he made risky decisions that sometimes paid off and sometimes didn't, but in the end, he made great TV and raised a ton of money.

Leeza, on the other hand, said she played smart and strategically with integrity. She insisted her record on the show spoke for itself and she had never once been called back into the boardroom -- much unlike Geraldo who had been a polarizing character all season long. Leeza even said she was responsible for pulling Geraldo out of a slump and losing streak.

The Celebrity Apprentice's seventh-season finale featured a heartfelt tribute to the late Joan Rivers. It was also announced NBC has renewed the franchise for a fifteenth edition.
About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.