Donald Trump Wanted Ivanka to Replace Him on ‘The Apprentice’ (EXCLUSIVE)

When Donald Trump left his seat in the boardroom as the star of his long-running NBC reality series “The Apprentice” in 2015, in order to run for president of the United States, he had a clear successor in mind.

“I said, ‘The best person to hire would be Ivanka Trump,’” Donald Trump says. “I didn’t press it. But I felt Ivanka would have been by far the best person you could hire.”

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Trump shares this revelation in a new book about his years as a reality star, “Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass,” written by Variety co-editor-in-chief Ramin Setoodeh. The book peels back the curtain on how Trump’s decade playing an all-knowing mogul on TV shaped his image as a politician, ultimately catapulting him to the White House.

“Apprentice in Wonderland” is based on unprecedented access and hours of interviews with Trump after he left the White House in January 2021— as well as his original boardroom advisers George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher, NBC executives and dozens of former contestants. Setoodeh is the author of the 2019 best-selling book “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View.'”

When “The Apprentice” premiered in January 2004, it became an overnight sensation, reaching more than 20 million viewers an episode in its first season. More importantly, the series, created by Mark Burnett, turned Trump into a beloved national figure. On TV, Trump was a savvy businessman, who judged contestants seeking his approval in a competitive job search and dismissed those who didn’t measure up with his ubiquitous catchphrase, “You’re fired!”

Eventually, the show added more star power in the form of contestants in “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which had everyone from Joan Rivers to Piers Morgan competing for Trump’s approval in tasks for charity. Trump starred in 14 seasons of “The Apprentice” and its spinoff before exiting reality TV, and he was also credited as the series’ executive producer.

“NBC didn’t like it, because it became like a family thing,” Trump says in the book about his proposal to have Ivanka replace him. “But I said, ‘There’s nobody you’re going to hire that will come even close to Ivanka.’ They said, ‘Huh…’ And then they came back with Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Schwarzenegger replaced Trump as host of “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” which premiered in January 2017, before Trump’s inauguration, and was canceled after one season due to lackluster ratings.

As part of Trump’s pitch for an Ivanka version of “The Apprentice,” Eric and Don Trump Jr. would have joined their sister on TV as boardroom advisers. The trio had been a regular presence on the show for years, appearing by their father’s side in later seasons to help him evaluate the contestants.

“It was going to be the three of us,” Eric Trump says in the book. “There were talks for a little while about it.”

In the end, this continuation of “The Apprentice” led by Ivanka didn’t come together, since NBC cut ties with Donald Trump when he ran for president and immediately made derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants in July 2015.

Instead, Trump’s grown-up children joined him on the campaign trail. “I think it’s pretty hard to say we’re going to run with reality TV in a time when you’re talking about ending nuclear proliferation around the world,” Eric says in the book. “I’m not sure the two could have worked in tandem.”

“Apprentice in Wonderland” will be published on June 18 by HarperCollins.

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