NBC’s The Apprentice, which began in its fifth season last Monday night, includes a recent graduate of Cornell University. Lee Bienstock ’05, a policy analysis and management major, made it out of the boardroom for the second time last night and avoided Donald Trump’s famous catchphrase: “You’re fired!”
This season of The Apprentice features 18 candidates, including a self-made millionaire, graduates of Columbia and Harvard and a member of Mensa, of whom one will win the “dream job of a lifetime with The Trump Organization and a hefty six-figure salary,” according to an NBC press release.
Those who know Bienstock expressed little surprise at his casting on the show and held high expectations for his success on the program.
“In a way, of course I was surprised – they interviewed thousands of people from across the country – but in a way, I wasn’t surprised, because when I think of all of my friends here at college, it would be Lee,” said close friend Eli Magid ’06. “He’s charismatic, he’s smart, he’s good looking; he’s just a real people person.”
“He always gets what he wants, and he really wanted this,” said Sima Greenbaum ’08. Bienstock’s “great competitive streak” and his ability to “figure out the system” will likely help him succeed on the show, Greenbaum said.
Bienstock’s professor, David BenDaniel, the Berens Professor of Entrepreneurship, also said that he was not “particularly surprised” that Bienstock was cast on the show, describing his former pupil as a “talented businessman” who was offered an undergraduate teaching assistant position, of which there are only one or two per semester available.
Aside from his teaching assistant responsibilities, Bienstock, who hails from Lawrence, N.Y., was a member of the PAM honors society with a 4.0 GPA and served on the executive board of Cornell Hillel.
For many of the students interviewed, Bienstock’s involvement with the Jewish community was exemplified by his performance as the emcee for Hillel’s Purim Date Auction last year, for which he gained special notoriety.
“He was charismatic and personable at the event,” recalled Tori Hershey ’08. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he made it to the show,” she said. Added Adam Friedland ’07: “Based on his outstanding job emceeing the Jewish date auction, he certainly has the charisma to succeed on television.”
Bienstock’s affability and capability are complemented by an equally strong sense of friendship, said those who know him.
“He’s over the top in everything he does, but over the top as a friend also,” said Greenbaum, who remembered a time last year when Bienstock drove her home through a blizzard for an important family event after her flight was cancelled.
Likewise, when Magid was involved in a car accident last year in Pennsylvania, Bienstock drove over five hours to bring visitors to the hospital.
“He’s not just a ‘cut throat professional’ – he cares deeply about his friends, about his heritage, he’s just a really good guy