British Aristocrat Turns to “Apprentice”-style Reality TV Program in Hunt for American Heir

Proving once again that tacky U.S. pop culture ideas never die, they just morph into new versions of themselves around the globe, Sir Benjamin Slade, British aristocrat and heir to a $13 million estate, doesn’t just want to give his estate away to any old Yank, he wants a group of hardy souls to trek to his 13th-century manor house in North Newton, England, and allow themselves to be “ejected,” apparently while being filmed for TV, from contention with his own variation on “The Donald’s” now-famous you’re fired line: “You’re disinherited!”

Sir Slade’s line doesn’t seem to have quite the same “humph” to it that Donald’s catchphrase does, but it certainly is off the charts on the “eccentricity” scale (maybe that’s the problem?). This story was reported here in the New York Times. The following are excerpts from the linked-to story (note the litigation angle):

NORTH NEWTON, England, March 2 — WANTED: Heir for $13 million estate, including 13th-century manor house, in bucolic Somerset. Must be able to pay $140,000 annual upkeep and meet incidental costs of, for example, repairing the driveway ($70,000) and fixing the stables ($1 million).

Also, “He can’t be a drug addict,” said Sir Benjamin Slade, the current owner of the estate and its manor, Maunsel House, which has been in the family since 1772. “He can’t be a Communist. It’s politically incorrect to say so, but he can’t be gay, because he may not produce any children.”

The problem, said Sir Benjamin, who is 59 and childless himself, is that none of his army of relatives is willing to take on the property when he dies. So he is searching for an heir in America, where some Slades settled in the 18th century.

“Americans have more energy and a better work ethic,” he said, sipping tea in his sumptuous library. (“There are no bookcases, because my family was illiterate,” he said.) Paintings of ancestors plastered the walls; a fire roared in the hearth; a leak dripped steadily from the ceiling.

Sir Benjamin has a ready store of scandalous stories about his ancestors, to whom he refers in the first-person plural. Many of his tales have to do with the Slade habit of losing money in inheritance-related disputes. The hardest fought of these, perhaps, was between a set of male Slade twins in the 19th century, only one of whom could be the heir.

“The problem was that no one knew who popped out first,” Sir Benjamin said. The ensuing suit — Slade v. Slade — cost a fortune in legal fees, adding to the family’s financial woes. “We were absolutely stuffed,” Sir Benjamin said.

He got the idea for the heir hunt when an American television company, researching a program about Britons’ American relatives, got in touch.

The television company — which Sir Benjamin said has asked him not to discuss too many details — is now hoping to turn the search into an “Apprentice”-style reality program, in which potential heirs would live at Maunsel House and undergo a series of challenges, with Sir Benjamin eliminating them one by one.

Sir Benjamin is looking forward to ejecting the losers with his own aristocratic catchphrase: “You’re disinherited.”