By People Staff
March 28, 2008 12:00 AM
Ali Goldstein/NBC

Last night, the good guy didn’t finish first.

But nice is not what the Celebrity Apprentice is about. Piers Morgan, a Simon Cowell-like judge on “America’s Got Talent” successfully used his famous contacts (including Cowell), persuasiveness and a ruthless determination to win the live finale of The Celebrity Apprentice Thursday over audience favorite and country music star Trace Adkins.

“I made the right decision,” Donald Trump, the show’s creator and star, told PEOPLE at the after party in Rockefeller Center. “He raised the most money, and he won every event — by far. In fact, I should hire him, he’s a smart guy.” –Diane Herbst and Mark Dagostino

Although Morgan clearly out-fundraised Adkins, Trump did not make his decision until the final moments of the show, says his son — and show judge — Donald Trump Jr. “In my heart I was trying to come up with a way to give it to Trace because he is such an amicable and likable guy,” Trump Jr. told PEOPLE. “Piers played it to win the way we play our daily lives building buildings in the tough world of real estate. We perhaps like to live in that fantasy world where the nice guy wins but unfortunately in the real world that doesn’t always happen.”

There really were no losers. In all, Morgan raised over $500,000 for the Fallen Heroes Fund, while runner-up Adkins earned money for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network as a tribute to his 6-year-old daughter Brianna who has severe food allergies. After Adkins lost, Brianna’s face fell and she looked sad. “Yeah, she was,” Adkins says. “I tried to tell her that Daddy won anyway and that more are going to know about her food allergy situation. But she’s a really smart 6-year-old girl and she knows Daddy lost.” –Diane Herbst and Mark DagostinoAli Goldstein/NBC