Fergie and Prince Andrew’s Financial Blunders
30 years ago today Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward Windsor and Sarah Margaret Ferguson married in Westminster Abbey. Whilst there will be no pearl anniversary gifts for the Duke and Duchess of York, the couple’s marriage did last ten years and they brought two princesses into the world – Beatrice and Eugenie make up a quarter of the Queen’s entourage of grandchildren.
The couple have remained close friends despite Sarah’s occasional scandalous toe-sucking incident and being exposed ‘selling’ access to Andrew in a case of entrapment by a disguised news reporter - at her lowest point of desperation with a debt of up to 5 million pounds due to her lavish lifestyle choices.
When Andrew was accused of underage sex (in a subsequently-dropped case) it was Sarah’s turn to stand by him, saying in early 2015 “He is a great man, the best man in the world. The York family are a tight unit, we always have been a tight unit. He is the greatest man there is.”
Flame-haired ‘Fergie’, as the 56-year-old Duchess is fondly known, has admitted that if it were not for Prince Andrew she would have been homeless. Despite Sarah’s annual £15,000 divorce settlement (a paltry sum compared to Diana’s £17.5m lump sum from Prince Charles), the York family lived together at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, inherited from the Queen Mother. Fergie also reunited with the Queen in recent years, joining her at Balmoral and Royal Ascot and sparking rumours of a reunion between the pair almost two decades after they split. However, it was not to be and in August 2015 she moved out of the family home to live in Verbier, Switzerland. The Duke and Duchess of York bought the £13 million chalet in the Swiss Alps in 2013 as a family investment, our currency calculator equates this to 16.95 million Swiss francs or 15.6 euros. The question is still being asked “How could they afford it?”
Despite some major set-backs, misjudgments and embarrassments, Fergie has at least tried to become a businesswoman and make her own way in life, undertaking personal re-branding and showing maturity with it. For eleven years she was an ambassador for Weight Watchers International earning £2m per year. Her autobiography My Story brought in revenue estimated at another £2 million and she has written various children’s books. She also tried her hand at producing the Oscar-winning film The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt, promoted Wedgwood for a £500,000 12-month contract fee, and followed in the footsteps of Hulk Hogan by advertising Tristar Products. Sadly, Hartmoor LLC was a less than successful health, wellness and lifestyle company which lasted three years, making a 600,000-pound loss.
This year Sarah Ferguson has engaged talent management firm Kruger Cowne for the next phase of her reinvention and is signed up with agencies to deliver keynote speeches. In Canada she earns 20,000 Canadian dollars per speech, which equates to roughly 11,500 pounds at today’s exchange rate.
Air Miles Andy
So while Sarah is trying hard to shake off her reckless reputation and fend for herself, what about the Queen’s second son Andrew? Well, he has made serious misjudgments of his own.
Just last weekend he was criticised for flying by helicopter the 400 miles to Royal Troon for The Open golf tournament (congratulations to Henrik Stenson), going against Palace rules of only calling a rotary-wing aircraft for official royal duties. So rather than spending 498 pounds on a first class return train ticket (heaven forbid he sit in standard) his fare cost taxpayers £5,000 instead. An upwards difference of nearly 18 weeks’ money for somebody on the national minimum wage.
With nicknames such as ‘Randy Andy’ and ‘The Playboy Prince’, 56-year-old womaniser Andrew spent 22 years in active service for the Royal Navy, and now holds the honorary title of Vice Admiral in recognition of the “enormous amount of work that HRH does in support of the Royal Navy”.
He also served as special UK trade envoy (formally ‘Special Representative for International Trade and Investment’, a title which Prince Andrew bestowed upon himself) until 2011 when he was forced to step down because of his continuing friendship with convicted billionaire paedophile Jeffery Epstein.
Andrew did not officially get paid for being the UK trade ambassador, but made the most of the all-expenses-paid trips including unnecessary members of staff and luxury modes of transport, rounds of golf or skiing trips and of course accumulating an excessive number of air miles (he visited 15 countries in his final year of service).
During his ten years in the role, he endured much criticism for his pompous attitude and questionable choice of business associates – holidaying with Libyan gun smuggler Tarek Kaituni and inviting ‘notorious crook’ Tunisian Sakher el-Materi (son-in-law of overthrown president Zine el Ben Ali) for lunch at Buckingham Palace.
The biggest criticism of all however is that he was using these networking opportunities, paid for by taxpayers, for his own personal enrichment. He sold his now-demolished Sunninghill Park, Ascot home for £3m over the £12m asking price to Kazakh businessman Timur Kulibayev – oligarch son-in-law of the president - after the property had been on the market for five years. Recent revelations by the Daily Mail tell us that another deal with corrupt Kazakhstan to build water and sewerage networks was allegedly set to earn Prince Andrew a £4m commission before it fell through.
Exasperated government ministers created a new role for the controversial schmoozing figurehead with “one big add-on, a bit less travel and a lot more working with apprenticeships and young people in Britain to get them skilled up to make stuff that the UK can sell around the world…let’s see what he can do to act, to create some profit, employ some people, pay some tax.”
But still he hasn’t taken the hint to back down from global negotiations, with dubious ongoing talks with China taking place this year.
Hopefully he has taken a leaf out of his ex-wife’s book and will now handle global trade with maturity and respect rather than with selfish abandon.