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In a crucial face-to-face showdown with Donald Trump last week that would determine his fate on “The Apprentice,” Andy D. Litinsky ’04 knew he had to keep his composure.
The youngest candidate on NBC’s top-rated reality TV show, Litinsky, 23, had outlasted 12 other business hotshots to be one of the final six contestants on the show.
But before the national debate champion had a chance to make his case for why he should remain on the show, an irate bridal salon owner cut in, using a verbal slash-and-burn technique intended to make the other female contestant, the brainy Jennifer Massey, a 1999 Harvard Law School graduate, look ridiculous.
After a cat fight that lasted several minutes, Donald Trump puckered his lips and turned to Litinsky, lambasting him for his silence while the two women raged.
“You’re fired,” Trump told a stunned Litinsky. “The kid wasn’t so hot tonight…Losing is a bitch,” Trump said to his associates after Litinsky and the two female candidates exited the boardroom.
While the winning team raced Lamborghini Gallardos around a track as a reward for winning the competition to design and market a new Pepsi product, Litinsky left Trump Towers to hail a cab.
“I made a conscious decision not to get involved in a screaming match because I thought it would reflect poorly on me and my chances of winning,” Litinsky said. “I don’t regret it.”
CLASSROOM VS. BOARDROOM
Litinsky opted to leave Harvard one semester early in order to participate in the second season of “The Apprentice,” which NBC filmed during two months last spring.
Instead of cramming for one last round of finals, Litinsky stepped into a side office of Trump Towers to take his exam for Quantitative Reasoning 34, “Counting People.” Instead of relaxing during Senior Week and enjoying last rites such as Class Day and Commencement, Litinsky was already butting heads with savvy businesspeople.
“Education is always important,” Litinsky said. “There are some things that you can teach and some things that you can’t. Business is comprised of both.”
Yet Litinsky said much of what he learned from Donald “The Donald” Trump took place outside the boardroom. After a private dinner with Trump and a handful of other candidates, Litinsky said he knew that the self-made business mogul was more than a gilded corporate icon with a wacky hairdo.
“He is a nice guy with a great sense of humor,” Litinsky said. “He knows a lot from having worked in real estate for so long. You can’t teach that stuff from a book.”
Andy is as modest about Trump’s fame as he is about his own starlet status.
“There is no paparazzi and most people are very positive about it,” he said.
His father, Steven M. Litinsky, said he was “very proud” of his son’s behavior on the show.
“He kept his cool, which is what an executive should do,” Litinsky said. “Donald Trump should be fired because he didn’t maintain order.”
From Andy Litinsky’s father, who holds a degree in business, to his three elder brothers—each of whom have chosen business careers—Litinsky’s family has always displayed an entrepreneurial streak.
“He represented his family well and he represented Harvard well,” Steven Litinsky said.
Andy’s first business venture came at the ripe old age of 13, when he co-founded a business with two of his older brothers to sell entertainment packages in several states.
Andy’s brother, Jim H. Litinsky, said Andy had been a strong thinker, writer and communicator since a young age.
“Each week, if you watch the episodes closely, a lot of the good ideas the team ended up choosing were his,” Jim Litinsky said.
Harvard friends were disappointed at Litinsky’s loss.
Jess L. Maki ’04, a Harvard Medical School student and a freshman proctor, said she and her family followed Litinsky, and her freshmen “thought it was wonderful that someone I knew was on TV.”
“I was impressed with how long Andy stayed on the show,” Maki said. “In the end, I think in the back of Donald’s mind, what it came down to was experience. Andy didn’t have it and the other candidates did.”
Litinsky said his behavior in the boardroom, which he likened to playing poker, was similar to his attitude towards life: he works well under pressure and he doesn’t mind having the odds stacked against him.
“Long shots do sometimes pay off,” Litinsky said, “and in this case, they did.”
Using his new-found star power to launch his business career, Litinsky has already signed a deal to appear in Pepsi commercials.
—Staff writer Elena P. Sorokin can be reached at email@example.com.
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