The Apprentice: Tom Pellereau wins!

Tom Pellereau has been crowned winner of the 2011 series of The Apprentice, after fighting off competition from Helen Milligan in the final.

The 31-year-old inventor triumphed after the four remaining contestants – who were competing for the chance to become Lord Sugar’s newest business partner – faced a gruelling set of interviews from his associates.

He now wins a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar plus the Amstrad tycoon’s backing to expand his business.

Earlier in the show fellow finalist Susan Ma finished in third place while Jim Eastwood came fourth.

Tom ultimately beat Helen – who had been favourite to take the prize after winning all but one task during the series – after his idea for an office chair which helps to cut back problems found favour over her plan for a concierge service.

Despite Helen’s last-minute bid for the title by changing her business idea to a chain of bakeries,Lord Sugar still ultimately chose Tom.

“You’ve got the experience of actually making stuff, selling stuff and inventing stuff,” he told him. “Your current business idea needs a lot of tweaking but that’s what business is all about.”

Lord Sugar also voiced his disappointment in Helen’s idea.

“You have been exceptional in that you’ve won so many tasks and understood the plot and shone through,” he said, “but you can see that I wasn’t happy with your business idea.”

He also admitted that had the series taken the original format of winning a job within his company Helen would have “walked it”.

Tom appeared thrilled at the news of his victory, calling it “brilliant” before making his feelings more clear in the cab after he had left the office.

“No longer is Lord Sugar sitting on the opposite side of the table,” he said. “I just can’t wait to open for business.”

Tom’s victory came despite having one of the worst track records in series history, having been on the losing team a record eight times and narrowly avoiding being fired on more than one occasion.

Speaking afterwards on the spin-off show You’re Hired, he said, “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for me. I don’t think anyone has ever lost as many times as I have and made it through to the final.”

Lord Sugar added that he had a “gut feeling” that Tom’s product would be a success. “And I’m a product man at heart,” he added.

The inventor revealed during the final that he had managed to get one of his previous inventions – a curved nail file – sold in Walmart stores in the US simply by convincing the chief buyer to meet with him.

Lord Sugar has since said that he plans to incorporate the nail file idea into Tom’s business deal.

Sunday’s final featured appearances from a number of Lord Sugar’s associates including Viglen chief Claude Littner, businessman Matthew Riley, magazine tycoon Mike Soutar and former Apprentice sidekick Margaret Mountford.