Companies pull support for Prince Andrew's networking event

Sunday's newspapers would have made for grim reading for the royal family.

Accounting firm KPMG has dropped its support of Prince Andrew's Pitch@Palace networking event, severing ties with the Duke of York before his controversial interview with the BBC on Saturday.

KPMG's decision not to renew sponsorship of the Pitch@Palace initiative was made in August, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Although 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, the source said.

"KPMG's sponsorship contract with Pitch@Palace finished at the end of October," a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told CNN on Monday. "A full programme of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the United Kingdom."

KPMG declined to comment.

Cisco also announced Monday that it has severed ties with Prince Andrew's event.

"Cisco made the decision not to renew its support of Pitch@Palace in April 2019 and our final engagement with the program was in June 2019."

Pitch@Palace is an initiative founded by the Duke of York in 2014 with the aim of connecting young entrepreneurs with business leaders and investors. The organization says it connects entrepreneurs and startups with potential supporters, including CEOs, industry influencers, angel investors, mentors and business partners.

KPMG and Cisco are not the only companies distancing themselves from Prince Andrew and the Pitch@Palace initiative. A spokesperson for Standard Chartered told CNN on Tuesday: "We can confirm we will not be renewing our sponsorship of Pitch@Palace when it expires at the end of year."

A spokesperson for Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca told CNN on Monday its "three year partnership with pitch@palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is currently being reviewed."

Companies have also sought to distance themselves from the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, known as iDEA.

Salesforce.org, the nonprofit arm of US tech company Salesforce, is listed as a corporate supporter on the award's website. A spokesperson said Wednesday the company is not currently engaged in the program.

Other companies listed as partners with Pitch@Palace and iDEA include:

• Air Asia

• ARM

• Bank of China

• Barclays

• Bosch

• BT

• Google

• Hult Business School

• Inmarsat

• InMotion

JD.com

• Li Ka Shing Foundation

• Microsoft

• Tencent

• TV Azteca

The Duke of York told BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis he had seen nothing that struck him as suspicious when he was around Epstein, who died by apparent suicide in August while awaiting trial on federal charges that he sexually abused underage girls and ran a sex trafficking ring. Epstein had pleaded not guilty.

One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has alleged that she was forced into sexual encounters with the prince while underage. In a 2015 federal court filing, Giuffre alleged Epstein forced her to perform sex acts with several prominent men, including Prince Andrew in 2001. All of them have denied the allegations.

He chose to stay at Epstein's home, the prince said, because it was "convenient" and "honorable."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed all the companies as backing Pitch@Palace. Some were associated with another initiative, the iDEA award.

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