Prince Andrew's charity loses sponsors amid Epstein scrutiny

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images

Businesses are distancing themselves from Prince Andrew’s entrepreneurship charity, amid intense scrutiny of the royal’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffry Epstein and allegations that he had sex with a then 17-year-old girl.

Two companies are ending their sponsorship of Prince Andrew’s Pitch@Palace event and a third is reviewing its involvement.

Sky News reported on Tuesday night that KPMG declined to renew its sponsorship of the Prince’s Pitch@Palace event when the contract expire at the end of October. KPMG, which was listed as a founding partner of the event, declined to comment when contacted by Yahoo Finance UK.

Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered (STAN.L) is also a sponsor of Pitch@Palace. A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK: “We won’t be renewing when the sponsorship ends in February.”

Drug giant AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said it is involvement with the event was “currently being reviewed” and its current contract ended this year.

Insurance giant Aon (AON) was listed as a global partner of Pitch@Palace on the charity’s website. However, a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK the company is “not a partner to Pitch@Palace and never has been, which is why we asked for the logo to be removed from the website.”

Pitch@Palace has taken down the entire web page listing its supporters. Other businesses that were listed on the page including Air Asia, Bosch, Barclays (BARC.L), and microchip maker Arm. Barclays declined to comment. None of the other companies immediately responded to a request for comment.

Scrutiny of Pitch@Palace’s sponsors comes amid intense pressure on Prince Andrew over his relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in police custody in August.

Prince Andrew stayed at several Epstein properties over a number of years and was pictured visiting Epstein in New York in 2010 after the financier had been convicted of sex crimes. Virginia Roberts-Giuffre has also said in US court depositions that the Prince had sex with her when she was just 17, after she was trafficked by Epstein. Prince Andrew denies the allegations.

Scrutiny of the Prince has intensified in the last few days followings a disastrous interview with the BBC, during which he appeared to show no remorse for Epstein’s victims and said he did not regret his relationship with the sex offender.

Prince Andrew founded Pitch@Palace in 2014 to support entrepreneurs. The event brings together startup founders with possible mentors and investors, connecting them during a pitching competition held at one of the royal palaces. Over 1,000 entrepreneurs have attended the event since it was set up and spin-off events have been held in over 60 countries.

As well as sponsorship from large corporates, the charity has received support from high-profile business leaders. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Facebook’s European VP Nicola Mendelsohn both wrote pieces for the charity’s 2018 report.

Pitch@Palace did not immediately respond to a request for comment.