On Tuesday’s episode of Watch What Happens Live, the New Celebrity Apprentice star shared that he was in touch with Michael “on and off” and was “not really” aware of his personal issues.
“I read stuff in the papers,” George, 55, said about Michael’s health. “But I never really knew really what — he really kept people out, he was quite private.”
Michael died on Christmas Day at age 53. His U.S. publicist told PEOPLE that the musician had died of heart failure.
On their relationship, George, whose music career paralleled Michael’s in the ’80s, told WWHL host Andy Cohen that the pair were rivals before pals.
“In the early days, we were competition to each other. Both called George, both made soul music. So in the early days, we were really in competition,” he explained. “Then sort of later on, I started to really appreciate him as a musician — you know, right around ‘Faith.’ I started to really appreciate his talent.”
The two stars were rumored to have feuded over the years, and George set the record straight regarding a specific quarrel they had about Michael not wanting to come out.
“We did, it wasn’t really a feud,” George recalled. “In the ’80s, everyone — Peter Burns, me, we all used to be really bitchy about each other. It’s like the thing that you did in the ’80s with those pop magazines. Now it’s the Housewives who do it!”
Concluding, “But in the ’80s, you just said vile things about everyone.”
Remember George Michael in PEOPLE’s commemorative edition, George Michael: A Pop Star Life, on sale now.
Following the news of the former Wham! band member’s death, tributes poured in for Michael and George was one of many from the music world to share condolences.
“I am thinking of @GeorgeMichael’s family, friends and fans right now,” he wrote in an extended tweet. “He was so loved and I hope he knew it because the sadness today is beyond words. Devastating. What a beautiful voice he had and his music will live on as a testament to his talent. I can’t believe he is gone.”