KPMG distances itself from Prince Andrew charity

25 November 2019 4 min. read
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Big Four firm KPMG has sought to distance itself from a networking event attached to Prince Andrew’s Pitch@Palace charity. KPMG was a contracted sponsor of the group until the end of October, but decided not to renew its relationship in the Summer, around the time links between the Prince and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein became public.

In mid-November, the BBC aired an interview with Prince Andrew, where the Duke of York sought to clarify his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. During the interview, the Prince faced questions around his friendship with Epstein as well as allegations of having sexual intercourse with an underage American woman. The appearance, which has since been branded “disastrous” and “excruciating” by critics, saw the Queen's son state that Epstein's house had been "a convenient place to stay" in 2010, before claiming it was also “the honourable thing to do”, when he went to sever their friendship.

During the interview, the Duke of York suggested that he couldn't have been dancing in the Tramps nightclub with Epstein's sex slave Virginia Roberts on March 10, 2001, as he was with his daughter Princess Beatrice for a birthday party at the pizza restaurant – a claim since called into question by various security experts, as it would appear in the Royal Family’s close protection records. Prince Andrew had previously denied allegations from another of Epstein’s victims from 2001, with Virginia Roberts Giuffre stating in a 2015 federal court filing that she had been forced her to perform sex acts with prominent men, including Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew - Duke of York

The interview seems to have raised more questions than it answered, and significantly tainted the Prince’s public reputation in the UK. Amid the fallout of what is at the very least an unmitigated PR own-goal, the business community has been quick to distance itself from the Prince. In a move that proved to be the start of a chain-reaction, global professional services giant KPMG announced that it would be severing ties with the Duke of York’s charity Pitch@Palace.

The initiative founded by the Duke of York in 2014 aims at connecting young entrepreneurs and start-ups with potential supporters, including CEOs, industry influencers, angel investors, mentors and business partners. A tweet from Sky News initially reported that the Big Four firm KPMG had not renewed its sponsorship of the initiative “following adverse press scrutiny around Prince Andrew," however it has since been pointed out that the actual decision came months earlier. KPMG’s sponsor contract with Pitch@Palace ran out in October, and the firm opted not to renew this relationship in August, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Links between the Prince and Epstein first came to light a month before this, with the release of his now infamous ‘little black book’ of contacts. However, according to the source, while 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. Either way, though, the fact remains that the ending of the business relationship has been pushed into the news cycle, and coincides with some supremely bad press for the Duke of York, suggesting the firm wants to make it clear that ties have now been severed.

As a result, a number of other businesses have since followed suit in distancing themselves from Prince Andrew and his charity. While Cisco also ended a sponsorship with Pitch@Palace – this time in April – it has also released a statement that it is not connected to the charity’s upcoming event.

At the same time, a spokesperson for Standard Chartered (SCBFF) told CNN on Tuesday that the insurance firm would also not be renewing its sponsorship of Pitch@Palace when it expires at the end of year. AstraZeneca (AZN) is also reviewing its relationship with the charity, while Salesforce has stated the company is not currently engaged in the programme, despite being listed as a corporate supporter on the award's website.