As half of a Hollywood power couple in The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills, Paul ‘PK’ Kemsley is a celebrity in the US along with his American wife Dorit.
The London-born businessman is one of the spouses on the reality show dealing with the fallout when their glamorous women trade insults as cutting as their manicured talons.
Now PK is relaunching his career on this side of the Atlantic after his ignominious exit 15 years ago. PK lost his £500 million UK property empire in the 2008 financial crash and was declared bankrupt before reinventing himself in America.
In his jet-setting days he was vice chairman of Tottenham Hotspur and, as a friend of Alan Sugar, one of the tough interviewers on The Apprentice. But then the bubble burst. ‘When I left in 2009 I didn’t think the UK would give me another chance,’ says PK, 56.
‘I got very firmly knocked off my pedestal and had to rebuild,’ he says. ‘It makes you humble. I knew America was the land of comebacks and I took my second chance.’
In the US, PK became an entrepreneur and investor as well as Boy George’s manager and, as of last month, Lulu’s too.
‘I’ve had this burning ambition to come back to do real estate again in the UK,’ he says. ‘I thought, “What if I took everything I’d learned in America and found a new way back into the business?”
‘I’ve bought and sold over 1,000 buildings. I’ve had huge ups and downs in the industry so I’ve got a lot to teach the kids.’
His new Channel 4 show, Selling Super Houses, is a mash-up of The Apprentice and glitzy US property series Selling Sunset and sees him as an Alan Sugar type looking to polish a rough diamond to hire as a high-end estate agent at London agency RIB, in which he’s bought a 50 per cent share.
He sets weekly tasks for the eight contestants (who include a fashion designer, a photographer and a single mum), such as holding an open house for potential buyers and furnishing a property to appeal to buyers. He critiques the contestants’ performances and eliminates one each week.
But if you’re expecting Apprentice-style boardroom fireworks you’ll be disappointed, as PK seems like more of an indulgent uncle than a finger-jabbing tyrant.
‘That behaviour’s disgusting,’ he says. ‘A lot of these kids have social and mental health issues. I’m a father and I talk to these people the way I’d expect someone to talk to my kids. The idea is to build them up, not rip them down.’
PK didn’t ask Lord Sugar for advice about his new TV venture, saying the pair are no longer close. ‘But I’m very close with Alan’s son Daniel. Alan and I are in competition. Why would I go to him?’
PK ropes in Dorit and Boy George for one amusing task. The candidates have to give a house tour for a demanding owner with bizarre provisos such as insisting the estate agents wipe down every surface they touch and remain silent in the yoga room.
But it’s all made up – it’s Boy George’s mansion and he and Dorit are watching it all on hidden cameras.
‘George is very supportive of what I do,’ says PK. ‘He’s part of our family and I wanted to get that chemistry between him and Dorit on screen in a task that was about learning to respect owners’ ridiculous wishes.’
Twice-married PK, whose children are aged between seven and 28, says losing everything taught him some valuable life lessons.
‘It’s fair to say I’m worth a fraction of what I was, but I don’t need a big number in the bank. It’s not what gets me out of bed any more.
‘If I can help someone achieve what they want to achieve, it’s far more gratifying than selling a building and making a million.’
- Selling Super Houses, Tuesday, 9pm, Channel 4.