After Prince Andrew’s deeply damaging interview with the BBC defending his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, students, charities and corporate sponsors are edging away. Many are considering ending their associations with the controversial senior royal.
Andrew’s close ties with Epstein, who allegedly hanged himself in a New York prison cell in August, already cost him one job years ago. Andrew quit as a trade envoy for the United Kingdom in 2011. This came after a photo of him strolling with Epstein in Central Park caused a media furor and raised questions about his judgment.
This round could be more punishing
KPMG, Standard Chartered, Aon, the University of Huddersfield and Outward Bound are among the organizations that have suggested they are distancing themselves from Prince Andrew, or reviewing their relationship with him.
It’s hard to tell exactly who has jumped ship. On Tuesday, the “supporters” page on the prince’s flagship initiative brought up “page not found.”
Andrew denies any wrongdoing, but his BBC interview Saturday night was widely seen as a public relations disaster. He tried to justify his relationship with Epstein and expressed no sympathy for Epstein’s victims.
Students at the University of Huddersfield are calling for Andrew to resign as their chancellor, a ceremonial post. On Monday evening, the university’s student union passed a motion declaring it did not want to “be represented by a man with ties to organised child sexual exploitation and assault.”
In an email to The Washington Post, university officials said they would consult with the students on the motion over the coming weeks.
Prince Andrew, like the rest of the “senior royals,” spends his days meeting and greeting at official “engagements.”
He serves as the patron of more than 200 charities, everything from the Army Officers’ Golfing Society to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
The prince also supports many organizations backing military veterans, the disabled and under served, as well as young men and women.
Lose positions as royal patron
Catherine Mayer, a longtime royal observer and author of the biography “Charles: The Heart of a King,” said she thought Andrew may ultimately lose many of his positions as royal patron.
“There is the power of the royal brand,” she said. “But many of the charities may have to ask themselves a hard question: Is it worth it,” their connection with Prince Andrew?
Mayer noted there are already 19 “working royals” in Britain who make it their job to support charities. “One less wouldn’t mean much,” she said.
She imagined Andrew would either have to dramatically pivot and find a way to support Epstein’s victims – or he will shunted aside.
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the queen, said that there is “no hard-and-fast job description” for royals like Andrew. They carve out their own roles, in part by selecting which charitable groups they want to champion. The duke, he said, has done that “admirably for the past four decades.”
Arbiter said charities connected to Andrew now have a “difficult decision to make, effectively getting rid of a royal patron,” which in normal times would seem absurd. “But they can’t carry on in hopes of generating positive publicity if their patron has got a cloud hanging over him that’s not going away,” he said.
Prince Andrew and the Pitch@Palace
Some of the sponsors of Andrew’s flagship business project – called Pitch@Palace – are dropping him or pushing the pause button.
Standard Chartered, a banking multinational, said that it wouldn’t renew when its sponsorship expires next month.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca told The Post, “Our three-year partnership with Pitch@Palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is currently being reviewed.”
Aon, an insurance broker, asked that Pitch@Palace remove its logo from its website, saying Aon had been wrongly listed there as a sponsor.
Asked about reports that multinational accounting firm KPMG was ending its support, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “KPMG’s contract with Pitch@Palace ended at the end of October. A full program of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the United Kingdom.”
The prince is also a patron of Outward Bound Trust, where a spokeswoman confirmed a special board meeting in the coming days. “On the agenda will be a discussion of the issues raised by the interview given by Prince Andrew on Saturday,” she said.
Ironically, some public relations analysts say Andrew may have agreed to the BBC interview with the aim of moving the conversation away from Epstein, so he could bolster his charitable works.
What does the 59-year-old former Royal Navy officer do with his golden years? If his health remains robust, Andrew will inevitably survive his father, Prince Philip, 98, and his 93-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II. He will see his elder brother Charles assume the throne.
Then what for the divorced father of two?
When asked why Andrew may have taken part in the BBC interview, Mark Borkowski, a public relations and crisis consultant, said that perhaps the duke was “looking ahead at year in front of him – 2020, 2021 – and probably 50 to 70 percent of work he’d do in any given year not there,” because of the Epstein scandal.
“When your purpose is threatened and challenged, and when your status is not what it was, for a man reaching 60, he doesn’t want to be that person he used to be on the golf course, so he had to up his game and draw a line under it,” Borkowski said.
When Andrew was asked by the BBC on Saturday how he planned to reconnect with the public, he talked about his projects Pitch@Palace and iDEA, the Duke of York’s Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, where people can earn digital badges for new technical skills they master.
Andrew told the BBC he wanted to “continue to work with Pitch, to continue to work with iDEA and the things that I believe strongly in. I’m not somebody who does things in competition with people, oddly. I do things in collaboration with people.”
The Washington Post