Supporters of one of Prince Andrew’s charities are pushing for the Queen’s son to end his association with Pitch@Palace, his entrepreneurs’ initiative, after another major backer abandoned the project.
Standard Chartered, the London-based bank, on Tuesday became the latest sponsor to cut ties with the charity following fresh questions over the Duke of York’s links to Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier and sex offender.
“We can confirm we are not renewing our sponsorship of Pitch@Palace for commercial reasons, once our current agreement terminates in December,” Standard Chartered said.
Another prominent backer of the scheme said it was pushing for the Duke to relinquish his association with the charity after he gave a widely criticised interview to the BBC, in which he defended his friendship with Epstein and showed little sympathy for his victims.
The Duke has been accused of having sex with a teenager who had been coerced by Epstein, allegations that he strongly denies.
“We’re pushing for Pitch@Palace to push out the Duke because it’s a very good programme that does good work,” said one sponsor.
A separate backer confirmed that there had been discussions about replacing the Duke, although they questioned whether it would be possible to eject him from the charity, which he founded in 2014 to support the work of entrepreneurs.
Advisory firm KPMG decided against renewing its sponsorship of Pitch@Palace on October 31, according to people briefed on the move.
Barclays Bank, which sponsors the initiative, is also “very concerned about the potential effect” of the Duke’s association with the programme, according to one person briefed on the matter.
The bank’s sponsorship of Pitch@Palace is not up for renewal for about 10 months, meaning that it would have to actively cancel its support rather than deciding not to renew it, as Standard Chartered and KPMG have done, the person said.
Other sponsors listed as Pitch@Palace supporters are British chip designer Arm and airline AirAsia. The companies declined to comment. It is understood that Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, started by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, would continue to support Pitch@Palace for the present.
A body which works with another of the Duke’s charitable initiatives said that it would “make a decision about continued support in due course as we would with all groups”.
Buckingham Palace said the issue “would be a matter for the respective organisations”. On Monday, it said that a “full programme of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the UK”.
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