Alan Sugar's Fortune Does a Disappearing Act on New Apprentice

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Byline: ROBERT MENDICK AND JONATHAN PRYNN

WHEN The Apprentice returns to television screens next week all the old favourites will be there including righthand woman and man Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer, the hapless contestants and of course the boss himself -- Sir Alan Sugar.

But, for the first time in the BBC programme's five series, one component will be missing --the size of Sir Alan's fortune, which was announced in the introduction to each episode.

Sir Alan's wealth was put at "more than [pounds sterling]800 million" as would-be apprentices fought for a [pounds sterling]100,000 job in his mainly property empire. This time there is no value on his wealth as experts say it may have fallen by up to [pounds sterling]100 million.

Fans of the show have been discussing the subject in internet chatrooms. One discussion board is headed: "Will Apprentice 5 still claim Alan Sugar is worth [pounds sterling]800million? …