Whatever you think of the truth of the most recent allegations leveled at him, there could hardly be a worse choice to represent British business interests at Davos, that annual jamboree of the mega-rich and captains of industry in Switzerland, than Prince Andrew.
New reports indicate that he intends to use the convention, which takes place this week, of crack capitalists to give a TV interview in which he will deny any involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal involving very young women.
That’s hardly going to overshadow his ‘Britain For Business’ message, is it?
A Palace spokesman said Andrew would be at Davos to “remind the audience of the strength and dynamism of UK entrepreneurship.”
Er, right. I am sure the sight of an immensely privileged, slightly paunchy, scandal hit playboy will do just that.
The risk he might remind them of something else has presumably been factored in to their calculations. Regardless, it is now clear that the Prince shamelessly intends to use Davos to recast himself (not for the first time) as an homme serieux.
Whether the public can be persuaded to forget about his unsavory friendship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and the pictures of him with his arm wrapped around the naked belly of a girl young enough to be his daughter, and the allegations that he had sex with young women who were being paid by Epstein, remains to be seen.
But before we are too hasty to judge the Queen’s favorite son, perhaps we should take a closer look at the astounding business instinct he displayed in the sale of the revolting and style-free McMansion home he built at Sunninghill Park in Ascot, near London.
The enormous house was probably worth, on a good day, about £11m, but Andrew figured that given its distinguished provenance as the former home of Randy Andy and Frightful Fergie he might be able to get a little more for it, so he put it on the market at £12m after their divorce.
Good business sense, surely—and hardly his fault that it languished unsold on the market for years. In the end, however, clever Andy was proved right in the final sale of the property in 2007 to Kazakh billionaire Timur Kulibayev, for £15m—£3m above the asking price!
Kulibayev is the son of the former president of Kazakhstan, and the father of the children of London petrochemical heiress and socialite Goga Ashkenazi, 34. Goga is widely thought to have been a lover of Prince Andrew’s, rumors she has never denied, and she is thought to have brokered the overpriced sale of Sunninghill Park to Kulibayev.
Funnily enough, Andrew often makes mysterious trips on his rather vague mission of promoting British business to Kazakhstan. We simply have to take it on trust that these are public service missions, and haven’t been used to feather Andy’s own nest.
The prince said last year about the sale of the house: "It's not my business the second the price is paid. If that is the offer, I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and suggest they have overpaid me."
Clever Andrew got to keep all that money himself because he then moved into Royal Lodge, his grandmother the Queen Mother’s former home in Windsor Great Park. Even better was the fact that Andrew never had to pay for the house in the first place—he was given it as a wedding gift by his mum.
Clever? Lucky? What’s the difference? Wasn’t it Napoleon who said that all he required of his generals was that they be lucky?
Kulibayev—the lucky buyer—has never lived in Sunninghill Park. It is now almost derelict with broken windows and boarded up doors. It could be demolished by the local council after they won a legal case allowing them to do so.
Andrew recently invested in a new property—splashing out on a seven bedroom ski lodge said to be worth around $15m. It will be interesting to see if he can flip that for a healthy profit to another billionaire.
Despite his good intentions at Davos, Andrew came under fire from former Home Office Minister Norman Baker last week, who said on the radio that Andrew’s ‘unofficial’ overseas visits could damage British interests, saying, “When MPs go abroad, or Ministers, or indeed the Queen, we know exactly what role they are undertaking. We don’t know with Andrew.”
He suggested said that some of the Prince’s connections are “not [what] someone representing Britain ought to be having.”
Hanging over all Andrew’s many scandals, of course, are his love of fast, glamorous women and the necessity of paying for that lifestyle.
The most severe threat—before now—to Andrew’s credibility came when in 2010 his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson plunged him into a cash for access scandal when she was caught on tape telling an undercover reporter posing as a businessman that the Prince was in on the scam and that he had suggested a £500,000 introduction fee. "Andrew said to me, 'Tell him £500,000,'” Fergie told the News of the World, adding, “Look after me and he'll look after you... you'll get it back tenfold."
Large white paintbrushes were promptly produced by the establishment. Andrew simply denied all knowledge of Fergie’s actions and there was no inquiry.
Most people would cut ties with someone who falsely implicated them in such an embarrassing scandal. Andrew invited Fergie to move back in with him.
Now he’s the one being paid back tenfold as his ex-wife sticks with him, telling reporters he is “the greatest man there is”.
They make quite a team; Andrew, the pompous, buffonnish, ageing playboy and the venal, Fergie. Maybe they really should just bite the bullet and get remarried, and to hell with what Prince Philip thinks.
They’re quite clearly made for each other.