John Rich Wins “Celebrity Apprentice”

NBC has a new “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Donald Trump named country singer John Rich, 37, the winner of the competition tonight after he raised a staggering $275,000 for his charity in the final task. The competitive musician beat cash-strapped Oscar winner Marlee Matlin for the title, in what Trump described as “one of the closest” finals yet.

“I’ve never had to go through something like this… You’ve both been amazing,” Trump told the pair before announcing his choice on the live portion of the program on Sunday night. “Marlee, you raised more money than anyone on a single night – over $1 million. That is just absolutely incredible. John from the beginning you’ve been a leader. You’ve been strong, you’ve been smart, you’ve been sharp.”

The fourth season of Celebrity Apprentice began in March with 16 contestants competing in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for and publicize their favorite causes. The final Celebrity task saw the contestants designing retro advertising campaigns for the soft drink 7-Up. Rich enlisted the help of Twisted Sister musician Dee Snider for his 80s-themed campaign. Matlin teamed up with Harlem Globetrotters and actor Geoffrey Holder for her 70s-inspired commercial.

Rich now wins a $250,000 check for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Matlin, best known for her 1987 film Children of a Lesser God, had been playing for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Shortly before the verdict was delivered,the two joined forces to perform a song, “For the Kids,” which Rich sang and Matlin, who is deaf, signed.

Most of the contestants “fired” earlier season were back for the live finale — and Meatloaf and Gary Busey, who nearly came to blows in a brawl over art supplies in a broadcast that aired a few weeks ago, kissed and made up after their explosive confrontation.

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