Financial news

Prince Andrew loses corporate support over Epstein case

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Via Financial Times

Prince Andrew is losing corporate support for his charitable work as companies including KPMG and Aon distance themselves from the Queen’s second son in order to protect their reputations.

Other business supporters of the Duke of York’s initiatives have told the Financial Times they are also reviewing their involvement in light of the questions raised over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier and sex offender.

The Duke has for years been an active patron of entrepreneurship initiatives, including the Pitch@Palace network and the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA). Both schemes rely on the support of partners, who range from universities and charities to big UK and Chinese corporates.

Some supporters began to reconsider their links in light of allegations that the Duke had sex with a teenager who was coerced by Epstein. The royal said the claims were “categorically untrue” in an interview with the BBC on Saturday.

The Duke’s widely criticised tone during the hour-long programme has amplified companies’ concerns about being associated with the royal.

Advisory firm KPMG decided against renewing its sponsorship of Pitch@Palace, which aims to support entrepreneurs, on October 31, according to people briefed on the move.

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.

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The page on the Pitch@Palace website that listed its corporate partners was taken down on Monday.

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.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said: “Our three-year partnership with Pitch@Palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is currently being reviewed.”

The loss of corporate support for a royal-backed initiative marks a new low for the Duke, who has struggled to put to rest questions regarding his willingness to accept the hospitality of Epstein, which continued even after the financier had been charged with sex offences.

One former sponsor said: “[Our relationship with Pitch@Palace] went before our risk committee [earlier this year] and it was unanimous it was not something we wanted to be associated with — it was just cut and dry.”

Some institutions are already facing grassroots pressure to reconsider their relationship with the Duke. The student union at Huddersfield University backed a motion in September calling on the Duke to resign as chancellor, a position he has held since 2015. The university is an important backer of the iDEA digital entrepreneurship awards.

A spokesperson for the university said the Duke’s “enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship is a natural fit with the work of the university . . . In relation to the allegations, the palace has previously issued an emphatic denial and this was reiterated in the BBC interview with The Duke of York and we have nothing further to add.”

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Other corporate partners of Pitch@Palace include Bosch, Bank of China, Tencent, Hult international business school and the Li Ka-shing Foundation. Bosch did not respond to a request for comment.

The Duke had cited his work with Pitch@Palace and iDEA when asked by the BBC how he would “reconnect with the public”. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “KPMG’s sponsorship contract with Pitch@Palace finished at the end of October. A full programme of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the UK.”

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