It turns out that corporations aren’t too keen on supporting an event with Prince Andrew these days. The risk of sullying their reputations over any connection with a friend of Jeffrey Epstein is too great.
In 2014 Prince Andrew, the Duke of York founded a platform to amplify and accelerate the work of entrepreneurs. Pitch@Palace gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to connect with people in the business community who can help make their ideas come to fruition. According to its website, 1,042 entrepreneurs from 64 countries have participated. The website boasts of 6,323 jobs created with an economic impact of £1,345M+. Under normal circumstances, all of this would be a good thing. This year, though, Prince Andrew has been exposed as a friend of Epstein and all that goes with that. It’s not a good corporate look for the founder of a charitable organization to be caught up in the world of sex trafficking and sex with underage teenage girls.
Prince Andrew gave a godawful interview last week to the BBC which only made his public relations problem worse. At this point, some corporate sponsors are sitting up and saying, “We’re out.”
Some corporations are playing both sides of the fence by stating that a decision to end sponsorship came before the BBC interview, though the public announcements are only just now being made. Accounting giant KPMG, for example, cites the end of its contract in October. They just didn’t renew the contract, you see.
KPMG’s decision not to renew sponsorship of the Pitch@Palace initiative was made in August, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Although KPMG had considered the bad press the Duke of York had been getting because of his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein, it was not a deciding factor in terminating the sponsorship, the source said.
“KPMG’s sponsorship contract with Pitch@Palace finished at the end of October,” a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told CNN on Monday. “A full programme of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the United Kingdom.”
Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will likely end after its three-year partnership agreement expires at the end of the year.
“Our three-year partnership with Pitch@Palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is currently being reviewed,” the company says in a statement.
Cisco made an announcement that the company is severing its relationship with the royal prince. Cisco claims the decision was made last April.
Cisco also announced Monday that it has severed ties with Prince Andrew’s event.
“Cisco made the decision not to renew its support of Pitch@Palace in April 2019 and our final engagement with the program was in June 2019.
The fallout continued by way of other announcements Tuesday, like that from Standard Chartered.
KPMG and Cisco (CSCO) are not the only companies distancing themselves from Prince Andrew and the Pitch@Palace initiative. A spokesperson for Standard Chartered (SCBFF) told CNN on Tuesday: “We can confirm we will not be renewing our sponsorship of Pitch@Palace when it expires at the end of year.”
One company, an insurance broker, wasn’t a corporate partner but appeared on the event’s website. Aon has asked that their logo cease to be listed on the website.
Aon, the insurance broker, asked for its logo to be removed from the Pitch@Palace website — where it was listed as a “global partner” — following the interview. Aon had never had any involvement with the Pitch@Palace network and should not have been listed as one of its partners, according to someone familiar with the company’s thinking.
The page on Pitch@Palace’s website listing corporate partners was taken down on Monday. Some partners are refusing to comment about any continued support and one company has come forward with the news that their partnership has been renewed.
Other groups listed as Pitch@Palace supporters included banks Standard Chartered and Barclays; Arm, the British chip designer; and airline AirAsia. The companies declined to comment.
Barclays, which has supported Pitch@Palace for the past five years, recently renewed its sponsorship of the programme despite the controversy around the Duke’s friendship with Epstein.
All of this is interesting, given the personal sexual history of Prince Andrew. Since adulthood, he has been the subject of numerous stories in the press about his sexual dalliances, shall we say. For many years, he was referred to as “Randy Andy”. He has a history of friendships with controversial businessmen and his frequent globetrotting earned him the nickname of “Air Miles Andy”. None of this was hidden information so all these corporations knew Prince Andrew wasn’t exactly looked upon as a figure of virtuous behavior. I suppose it was the final straw of a possible pedophilia scandal that broke the camel’s back.
Some are coming forward with demands that Prince Andrew step away from the organization now. Others question if that is possible.
Another prominent backer of the scheme said it was pushing for the Duke to relinquish his association with the charity after he gave a widely criticised interview to the BBC, in which he defended his friendship with Epstein and showed little sympathy for his victims.
The Duke has been accused of having sex with a teenager who had been coerced by Epstein, allegations that he strongly denies.
“We’re pushing for Pitch@Palace to push out the Duke because it’s a very good programme that does good work,” said one sponsor.
A separate backer confirmed that there had been discussions about replacing the Duke, although they questioned whether it would be possible to eject him from the charity, which he founded in 2014 to support the work of entrepreneurs.
As I said, all of this guy’s history is well known. Corporations were willing to overlook his sketchy personal character until the publicity became too horrible to continue. The real losers will be the budding entrepreneurs who may lose out on opportunities provided by the organization, should it cease to continue. Hopefully, a way can be found for someone else to come forward and lead the organization. Meanwhile, their Twitter account is active and touting successes and future opportunities.
— Pitch@Palace (@pitchatpalace) November 15, 2019
— Pitch@Palace (@pitchatpalace) November 13, 2019