A bizarre story appeared in the British press this week, announcing that Princess Beatrice, the elder daughter of Prince Andrew and Fergie, had landed a deal with a sexy tech start-up seeking to float on the New York stock exchange via her new business consultancy.
Fun-loving Princess Beatrice, the report in the Telegraph rather breathlessly announced, was following “in the footsteps of her father the Duke of York by setting herself up as a business matchmaker and winning her first high-profile client in the shape of would-be stock market debutant Afiniti.”
For cheerleaders of Princess Beatrice’s somewhat uneven career as a wannabe businesswoman, any news is good news, but further details as to exactly what Princess Beatrice is up to in her professional life remain hard to fathom.
One courtier told the Daily Beast they had “no idea” who Beatrice worked for, or in what role her business consultancy was partnering with Afiniti, an artificial intelligence company which makes software for call centers, counts Vodafone and Virgin among its customers, and is said to be exploring a $US2 billion listing in New York.
The Duke of York’s office refused to clarify the issue any further to the Daily Beast other than to repeat an absurd stock response that Beatrice is “continuing to work in business.” Afiniti issued a response to the Daily Beast declining to comment on the validity of reports stating the Princess’s connection with the company.
All that is known for certain is that Beatrice, an excellent networker with fabulous name-recognition, accompanied Afiniti’s founder, Zia Chishti, and his entourage to “meetings and parties” at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.
It seems reasonable to speculate, in the absence of any information to the contrary, that Beatrice is acting as a brand ambassador for the company, representing it to investors. What else could a “business matchmaker” be?
Beatrice reportedly set up her consultancy after leaving the New York investment firm Sandbridge Capital in June. According to reports her consultancy operates “under the auspices of Sandbridge Capital,” but, again, no-one is willing to provide any clarity, or even the name of the business, on the record.
Such shadowy, secretive behavior is exactly not what a member of the royal family needs to make a success of a career in trade. One might have thought that Beatrice would have learned this lesson from her father, Prince Andrew, with whom comparisons to Beatrice are unhelpfully apparent.
Andrew’s suspicious property deal with a Kazakh billionaire to buy his former marital home for £3m over the £12m asking price was widely reported.
Andrew was a regular visitor to Kazakhstan at the time as part of his role as UK Special Representative for Trade and Investment. He even went goose-hunting with then-President Nazarbayev, who just so happened to be the father in law of Timur Kulibayev, the buyer of his house.
The palace has always insisted that the deal was legitimate and that Andrew was merely ‘fortunate’ to get such a good price for the house.
However, the lack of transparency has encouraged speculation that Andrew exploited his position for financial gain.
Beatrice’s mother, the Duchess of York, could be fairly said to have had a disastrous business career, which has seen her of late conducting business meetings in a five star London hotel bar rather than paying for her own office.
At one stage she was so desperate for money that she agreed to corruptly sell access to her husband – unfortunately for her the meeting, at which she sought $700,000 was being recorded by a British tabloid newspaper.
However, Beatrice has been wise to follow the example of her mother in one respect at least – trying to make a go of it overseas, in America (Fergie made millions as the American face of Weight Watchers), a wise move which at least insulates her from daily scrutiny by the British press.
In comparison to her parents’ exploitation of their royal name for financial gain, it should be said that friends of Beatrice tell the Daily Beast she is “hardworking” and keen to make a success of her life in her own right.
But fundamentally, anyone with an HRH title will find it hard to be taken seriously in business. There will always be tension between their public and private roles, and questions as to whether it is the title or the person who is being bought by any partner or employer.
In that respect, the shrewdest of the royal business people is perhaps Princess Anne, who gave up the rights of her children Peter and Zara to their HRH status, with both now enjoying lives of prosperity in relative obscurity.
If Beatrice really wants to stand on her own two feet, she should officially drop her title once and for all.
Such a move would win her enormous respect, and forever take the wind out of the sails of those who allege that, like her parents have done, she is seeking to make a quick buck and cash in on her royal status.