WITH his ‘pop star name’ and modest claim to be “the reflection of perfection”, few predicted Ricky Martin would go on to win The Apprentice.
But the 38-year-old has just been named the BBC show’s ‘most successful’ winner – with his company, Hyper Recruitment Solutions, turning over a whopping £15million.
But his rise to the top wasn’t easy, as Ricky grew up in a working-class family in Hampshire where “money was always tight”.
It instilled a strong work ethic, and as a teenager Ricky balanced three jobs – including one that paid £2.97 per hour. He hasn’t been unemployed since the age of 12.
Ricky faced a crossroads in 2012 when he was forced to choose between taking a place on The Apprentice, or pursuing his other dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
He made the “logical” decision, and ended up walking away with Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment – something he is “very grateful” for.
Growing up, Ricky’s dad worked in construction while his mum raised him and his two siblings.
He says there was never any money to spare, and it taught him that if he wanted something, he needed to work to buy it himself.
Ricky tells The Sun: “I was a paper boy for about four years, I worked every morning seven days a week and on the weekends was up at 5am to do it.
“There was a point where I was stacking shelves in a shop, cleaning bathrooms and bedrooms in a hotel, and doing a paper round all at the same time.
“I earned £21 a week for my paper round, had a Saturday job as a hotel porter and worked for £2.97 per hour in a shop.
“People used to look at me weirdly for doing the paper round and ask why I hadn’t quit but for me, I always thought ‘Why not? I can still make an extra £21 a week.
“It wasn’t a lot of money and took a lot of my time, which made me realise I need to work harder and longer to get more money, which led me to sales.”
Ricky earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry before bagging his first post-uni job at 21, as a recruiter on £15,000-a-year.
On his first day Ricky clashed with his manager when he insisted he should use his birth name, Richard, for work.
He recalls: “I remember he told me, ‘Just so you know, you’re going to be called Richard Martin, not Ricky Martin because it’s a stupid name and no one will take you seriously.’
“I disagreed. I knew it would give me an edge and told him, ‘You are completely wrong, I will get more business with that name than you ever will expect’.
“I was stubborn and was determined to prove him wrong. When customers used to call me back I asked them why and they said it was because of my stupid popstar name.”
Ricky continued to rise through the ranks in the recruitment world and hatched a plan to launch his own firm that focused on the science and technology sectors.
At the same time he had lofty ambitions of becoming a professional wrestler – a hobby he started at the age of 18.
“I took it very, very seriously,” Ricky admits. “I was wrestling all around the country every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night between my Monday to Friday job.”
Under the name Ricky Hype he earned title belts including the PPW Welsh Tag Team & Heavyweight Championship.
He was such a success that he tells us he was “offered a trial” with major US corporation the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), now the WWE.
I was wrestling all around the country every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night between my Monday to Friday job
At the same time, Ricky had auditioned for BBC’s The Apprentice and says the decision was a fork-in-the-road moment that changed his life forever.
“It was a case of two buses arriving at the same point and was definitely the tipping point of my career,” he tells us.
“I was offered a trial with the WWE in 2011 but at the same time, I also was offered a contract for The Apprentice.
“Ultimately I chose a sustainable career over the life of a wrestler, where you can become injury-prone in your early life, and feel very lonely in the grand scheme of things.
“I made a logical decision and am very grateful I did. I’m not exactly sure that I would have become a mainstream star because I didn’t have the right build.
“I was just over 6ft and 16 stone, compared to the main league stars out there who were 6ft 6in and 20st.”
No game plan
Ricky was full of bravado during his time on The Apprentice – but insists he has “no regrets”.
He famously compared himself to the demi-God Thor and claimed he could “teach an old dog new tricks” – referring to Lord Alan Sugar.
“I realised that if I wanted to succeed in the process then I needed to get the attention of Lord Sugar,” Ricky explains.
“The only time you have with him is in the boardroom, so that’s where you need to have conversations and a meeting of the minds.
“I never had a game plan. I just wanted to do my best in every task, and win as many as I could, come across as competent and learn from my mistakes.
“The worst thing you can do on The Apprentice is play a part, like a Pantomime villain, or sabotage your teammates.”
Ricky maintains he is not ashamed of anything that happened during the show – even being torn apart by Lord Sugar’s aides in the finals.
Claude Littner notably described his personal statement as “crass, obnoxious and infantile” but admitted he was “quite impressed” by Ricky’s career achievements.
Ricky continues to work with Lord Sugar. He says: “Would I say we are friends? I’m not sure… We’re friendly but not mates, we don’t send WhatsApp messages every day.
“That’s the exact relationship I expected when he invested in the organisation. I can rely on him if I need to and he offers insight and support.”
‘Most successful’ winner
Ricky’s business Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) has gone from strength to strength and he’s also a board member on several small start-ups.
He tells us his firm, which aims to find the best scientists to create lifesaving drugs, continues to be a profitable business that grows year on year and has a turnover upwards of £15million.
In January, UK financial services provider CMC Markets named Ricky as the Apprentice’s most successful winner due to HRS having £2.26m in net assets.
He said: “Naturally it’s a huge compliment and one I am delighted to hear… when it comes to my business I know we more than hold our own.”
Under his tenure HRS turned over £8m in the 12 months leading up to June 2018 and declared pre-tax profits of over £1million.
Nationalworld.com reported that HRS made £11.9m in sales, a pre-tax profit of £1.4m and a post-tax profit of £1.1m back in 2020.
Celebrating the company’s achievements back in 2018, Lord Sugar said it was “a no-brainer” choosing Ricky as his business partner due to his understanding and passion.
Married to ‘Soccerette’
Away from business, Ricky is married to former Soccer AM ‘Soccerette’ Gemma Lovejoy, who he met while working in recruitment.
They live in Essex with their children Alexander, nearly five, and Olivia, three, who he calls their “little miracles”.
It took them around four years and several rounds of IVF to conceive Olivia.
Ricky says: “Growing up you think everyone can have kids and that it is normal and easy. But for us and many other parents and hopeful parents that wasn’t the case.
“We spent years wanting to have children and thinking we may never have them. When Gemma was pregnant we were over the moon.”
Tragically, early into the pregnancy he lost his brother Newrick – who died from sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 34.
“It was a difficult and bittersweet year,” he recalls. “Shortly before my brother died we hadn’t told anyone about our son because we were still in the very early stages.
“The day after we listened to his heartbeat for the first time, which was the most amazing thing, my brother passed away suddenly.
“I never got the chance to tell him I was going to have a child. It was a very difficult and brilliant year at the same time.”
Ricky and Gemma’s second child Olivia was conceived naturally.
While Ricky, who’s an ambassador for the charity Jeans For Genes, is still focused on ensuring his business’s success, he admits fatherhood has changed him.
“First and foremost, my primary job is as a father and husband now,” he tells us.
“My secondary is as the leader of HRS and my tertiary job is as a board member on several small start-ups.
“It’s hard to manage my time but it’s all worth it.”
To learn how to get involved in this year’s Jeans for Genes Week (18-24 Sept) go to www.jeansforgenes.org.
What is Jeans For Genes?
JEANS For Genes Week is an annual awareness and fundraising event for the genetic condition community.
It has raised more than £50million since it was launched in 1995 and has benefited at least 18,662 individuals in the last three years alone.
Genetic conditions are the biggest killer of children under 14 and there are more than 3.5million people living with them in the UK alone.
More than 100,000 people from schools, hospitals and businesses will get involved with the Jeans For Genes fundraiser, which sees individuals donate money to wear denim to work or school.
The CGD Society, which launched the fundraiser, helps to fund pioneering genetic research and treatment, major facilities and state-of-the-art equipment.
To donate, get involved with the fundraiser or for more information visit: www.jeansforgenes.org.