Prince Andrew BBC fallout: Barclays joins BT and Advertising Week in severing ties with duke

Prince Andrew launched Pitch@Palace in 2014

Businesses are continuing to distance themselves from Prince Andrew following a recent BBC interview which probed his links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

BT is the latest brand to sever ties between itself and the Duke of York, confirming on Wednesday (20 November) that it would no longer work with digital skills charity iDEA, of which the royal is a patron.

In a statement, BT said it had been a partner of the organisation since 2017 but stressed its dealings have been with its executive directors and not Prince Andrew.

Nonetheless, it said it wouldn't collaborate with the business again until there was a "change in its patronage".

BT has joined a growing list of brands and charities reconsidering their connections to Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew business exodus: a timeline

16 November - BBC airs explosive interview

The Duke agreed to an interview with the BBC to discuss his relationship with late sex offender Epstein. The broadcast on Saturday 16 November came after years of speculation over the royal's knowledge of the financier’s exploitation of minors.

Prince Andrew's responses have since been criticised for failing to show neither sympathy for Epstein’s victims nor remorse for the friendship.

Over the past week, the social criticism has translated into a loss of corporate support.

Pitch@Palace removed the sponsors page from its website.

18 November - Pitch@Palace sponsors begin to drop out

Pitch@Palace, the Duke of York’s mentorship programme for British startups, has lost a number of commercial partners after the prince’s connections to Epstein were pushed further into the international spotlight.

KPMG, a founding partner of Pitch@Palace, will no longer attach its name to the programme, Sky News reported. A spokesperson from Buckingham Palace confirmed the contract came to an end in October and was not renewed.

Cisco, which was previously listed as a partner of the scheme, told The Drum it decided not to renew its support of Pitch@Palace in April. Its final engagement with the programme was in June 2019, according to a company spokesperson.

Barclays, another partner, has thus far declined to comment on whether it would continue to work with Pitch@Palace while Air Asia also declined to comment when approached by The Drum.

After initially refusing to comment, Standard Chartered later said it would be pulling the plug on its sponsorship. “I can confirm that we will not be renewing our sponsorship of Pitch@Palace when it expires at the end of year,” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported AstraZeneca has also decided to review its three-year involvement in the scheme.

According to the Financial Times, Aon asked for its logo to be removed from the Pitch@Palace website following the broadcast of the BBC interview. The insurance broker was listed as a ‘global partner’ however this listing was erroneous, according to the paper’s source.

Contacted by The Drum in relation to its plans to work with the Prince in the future, a spokesperson for Advertising Week commented: "We are committed to creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to showcase their ground-breaking ideas, which is what initially attracted us to engage with and support Pitch.

"While our support for entrepreneurs remains just as strong, we can confirm that Advertising Week Europe is no longer involved with Pitch@Palace."

Finally, ad agency Gravity Road distanced itself by confirming that it had been working with the Duke on a "project basis" and that had been completed.

“Gravity Road had previously helped the Pitch@Palace platform on a project basis - as part of our social commitment to helping other entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. Those projects have been completed," a spokesperson said.

20 November - BT drops Prince Andrew-backed firm, Li Ka Shing Foundation stays put

Though BT is not a Pitch@Palace partner, the brand is seeking to distance itself from the royal by refusing to work with a tech charity he backs.

BT has said it will not work with skills training firm iDEA so long as the Duke of York remains its patron.

In a statement, the telecoms giant said: "In light of recent developments we are reviewing our relationship with the organisation and hope that we might be able to work further with them, in the event of a change in their patronage."

Meanwhile, Hong Kong based charity, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, confirmed it would not review the relationship with Pitch@Palace until next year, per a contract.

"We have been a sponsor of Pitch@Palace since 2018. Pitch@Palace is one of many initiatives around the world that we support to foster innovation and entrepreneurial talent. Under its terms the sponsorship of Pitch@Palace will not be reviewed until mid-2020," a spokesperson said.

22 November - Barclays walks away

After initially declining to comment on its involvement in Prince Andrew's Pitch@Palace, Barclays later issued a statement saying it did not intend to carry on the partnership.

“In light of the current situation, we have informed Pitch@Palace that going forward we will, regretfully, no longer be participating in the programme," a spokesperson said.

“Pitch@Palace has been historically highly successful in supporting entrepreneurs and job creation and we hope a way forward can be found that means they can continue this important work.”

What's next for brands and charities linked to the Prince?

The Drum also reached out to Bank of China, Bosch, InMotion, JD.com, Foundation, Tencent, Arm, TV Azteca, Hult, Inmarsat, Stelios, Infocomm Media, Unbound, and agencies Fieldhouse and Rednine, which were all previously listed as supporters or partners on the Pitch@Palace website.

None had responded at the time of publication.

The Financial Times has reported that one prominent backer of Pitch@Palace is pushing for the Queen’s son to relinquish his association with the scheme, which he founded in 2014.

Other brands like Bosch have yet to comment on their association with the Prince's initiative. Charities he patrons, including the Outward Bound Trust, which has a long association with the royal family, are reconsidering his role as patron.

Earlier this week, Andrew cancelled a trip to flood-hit South Yorkshire, which would have been his first public appearance since the BBC's interview aired.

It is understood the visit was deemed inappropriate in the midst of an election campaign.

This story is developing further coverage will follow.

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