New Port Richey-raised Anand Vasudev among 16 downsized contestants on NBC's The Apprentice
When he was laid off last year from St. Petersburg real estate company Echelon LLC, Anand Vasudev had no idea it would lead to a starring role on one of NBC's most visible shows.
But his tale of surviving ejection from a job managing a $500-million real estate portfolio made the New Port Richey-raised Vasudev a perfect candidate for Donald Trump's revamped Apprentice -- the first version of the business-oriented competition to feature non-celebrities in two years. Centered on a field of players aversely affected by the tanking economy, Trump's show welcomed the 1997 graduate of Berkeley Preparatory School, who moved to New York after his layoff and hasn't taken a salary in a year.
Vasudev, 31, joined 15 other contestants in vying for status as Trump's Apprentice, finishing up filming on the show about a month ago. As a longtime fan, he said the competition this year was more intense, because all involved felt they were playing for their professional survival.
"I thought I was indispensable...until I got laid off," said Vasudev (officials from Echelon declined to comment on his departure). "When you're cast out to sea, it's very humbling. (But) I knew this show was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I had to take full advantage."
NBC this morning announced the cast of the show, which includes a real estate agent from Miami, an Olympic swimmer who couldn't get a job after college and a certified public accountant from Texas who had to sell most of his family's possessions after his economic setbacks.
Born in Gainesville, Vasudev moved to New Port Richey as a child when his father Dr. U.B. Vasudev started his dentistry practice. But he never would have landed on The Apprentice without the influence of his mother, Ponnamma, a die hard Donald Trump fan.
"I think she really has a crush on him," he said, laughing. "She always said it would be her dream if I ever got the change to work with him. So I figured, what the heck, let me try out. So now I can admit it: I did it for my mom."
Check out a couple of NBC promos featuring Vasudev and The Apprentice below: