BILL Cullen's former Apprentice Steve Raynor said he was devastated for his former mentor after his motor trade business failed.
Bill (70) is said to be "very sad" at the appointment of receivers to his well-known businesses Glencullen Holdings, which operates dealerships in Swords and Liffey Valley.
He headed up TV3's Apprentice programme but all of those he hired have now all gone on to further their careers elsewhere.
The Dublin entrepreneur's 55-year motor-trade business came to the end of the road after it was put into receivership yesterday.
The Bill Cullen Motor Group (BCMG) is Glencullen's main operation with the two former Renault dealerships in Dublin, one in Airside Motor Park in Swords and the other in Liffey Valley Motor Mall.
The entrepreneurial businessman started out his career selling apples from a cart on Dublin's Moore Street.
He went on to buy Renault's Irish distribution rights in 1986 for just £1 and developed it into a multi-million empire.
Former Apprentice winner Steve was employed by the BCNG for the longest time and left just four months ago to join Joe Duffy Motors. Steve told the Herald: "It is very sad news, I'm just devastated for him and everyone involved who fought so hard to keep it going.
"Bill is the nicest guy I have ever worked for and has had a major influence on my life, my family's life and my career. I owe him so much."
But he said that this would not be the last we have seen of Bill.
"For most people this would be a huge setback, but for a man like Bill Cullen it's probably just a bump in the road," he said.
The business group served as a training ground for the winners of Ireland's TV reality show The Apprentice.
Bill helped polish off the fresh-faced hopefuls and set them on the road for greater things.
The first year's winner Brenda Shanahan was employed by Bill as a project manager at the Glencullen Group from January 2008. But she left in October 2010 to take up a marketing role at Anderco Safety.
Another winner Michelle Massey went on to become sales manager at BT and last year's top entrepreneur Eugene Heary continues to operate his auction business, in conjunction with Bill.
A source close to Bill told the Herald: "He had fought tooth and nail to save the business.
"He is working with the receiver now to ensure a smooth transition. But that is it for the moment, he has no plans beyond that right now."
A total of 45 staff were told yesterday that Ulster Bank had decided to appoint receivers Kavanagh Fennell to the company to secure its loans - believed to be about €12m.
A statement from Mr Cullen said that the move "reflects the poor state of the motor industry today with consumer confidence at an all time low".
"Car dealerships built at Celtic Tiger prices have been written down by more than 70pc," he said."With the dreaded December Budget on the horizon, the poor forecast for 2013 car sales does not give any confidence to the banks."
Earlier this year, the group's two other dealerships in Ennis and Galway closed with the loss of 29 jobs
Mr Cullen continues to retain control of the Muckross Park Hotel Cloisters Spa in Killarney, which he co-owns with Jackie Lavin.