A REFORMED gambler and alcoholic who got his life back on track is Bill Cullen's new €100,000 helper after winning 'The Apprentice'.
Bill last night told business development manager Steve Rayner he was hired in the final of the popular TV3 series.
"I did have an addiction with gambling and booze all through my 20s but I broke it when I was 27," Steve Rayner said after his win was announced.
"I suppose it makes this win all the more special," he added.
The 30-year-old turned his life around with the help of "good friends" and a new "policy of honesty".
His people skills -- and a determination to sell -- are what helped him see off rival candidate Stephen Higgins (25).
Judges on 'The Apprentice' had earlier spoken of how he turned the energy he had used throughout his gambling addiction to sales instead.
Steve, who is from Middlesborough in England but now lives in Co Cork, fought off all the competition to win the final after the 13-week show.
An estimated 700,000 viewers heard Bill Cullen tell Rayner, "You're Hired", the two words that landed him a €100,000 a year job.
"When Bill pointed the finger at me I was ecstatic. I still can't believe it," Rayner said last night. "If there one reason why I won, perhaps it's because there's more to 'The Apprentice' than the tasks. It's how you get on with people. I think I was able to be myself throughout everything that happened and that really helped me."
The former salesman triumphed in the last task where the two finalists were asked to organise a themed event to present the Ford Fiesta car in a new, contemporary and stylish light at The Wright Venue in Swords.
Steve Rayner recruited former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton to launch the motor in a carnival-themed party.
However, at the climax of the launch Heaton, wearing an elegant black dress and stilettos, fell as she helped remove a sheet to unveil the car.
"I didn't have a clue what was going on. I was on one side of the car and she was on the other. Everyone was shouting and cheers then suddenly everyone went quiet," said Rayner.
Stephen Higgins encountered his own difficulties too, staging a dramatic U-turn after deciding halfway through planning that the theme of his event was wrong.
But it was Steve Rayner who impressed Bill Cullen in his final boardroom deliberation in which he told him: "Steve, the biggest thing that has impressed me about you is your integrity, is the way you're able to get on with people and that's essential when we've got the different organisations we're involved in. It's a pretty unique talent and you have it naturally. So I look forward to welcoming you on board."
Runner-up Stephen Higgins was gracious in defeat, saying Rayner deserved his job.
"I think Steve deserved it a little bit more than me because he put me on the line to get it. He has been through a lot more in the last few years, I am only 25 and out of college a few years. At the moment I don't think I'm ready for a hundred grand salary, " said Mr Higgins.
Steve Rayner will now leave telecoms company Imagine to take up a role on January 4 in Bill Cullen's motor business.