Prince Andrew’s former aide quits Pitch@Palace

The Duke of York’s former private secretary has resigned as chief executive of his flagship business venture three months after reaching a settlement to leave Buckingham Palace.

Amanda Thirsk has resigned from Pitch@Palace to take up an undisclosed role in the private sector.

Her departure will come ahead of an attempt to relaunch the project under the name Pitch Connect, reflecting its new-found distance from the royal household.

The initiative, which connects start-up companies to mentors and investors around the world, is expected to recruit a new chief executive in the coming weeks.

Sources said that Ms Thirsk had informed Pitch’s network of entrepreneurs about her resignation on Tuesday.

One start-up founder who was notified of the news described it as “a disappointment because of her excellent work, but not a surprise”.

It says it has helped nearly 1,000 start-ups since being set up in 2014.

Pitch also claims to have created almost 6,000 jobs since its inception and generated more than £1.1bn of new economic activity.

However, it has faced an uncertain future since Prince Andrew’s disastrous BBC interview last autumn about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and convicted paedophile, who was found dead in his American jail cell in August.

A number of Pitch’s corporate partners, including Barclays, KPMG and Standard Chartered, ended their relationships with the project as the furore over the Duke’s interview grew.

Most of the directors of Pitch subsequently resigned, leaving only Ms Thirsk and the businessman Johan Eliasch on its board.

A slate of new directors is also expected to be recruited in the short term as Pitch Connect attempts to get off the ground.

In January, the venture secured a new home close to Buckingham Palace, taking a lease on space at a WeWork building in London’s Victoria.

The move underlined the determination of those behind the initiative to continue operating, according to people close to it.

Events have been planned for this year in China, the Middle East and other parts of the world, although its schedule faces inevitable disruption because of the coronavirus outbreak.

It is unclear where future events in London will be staged, with the most recent one having been held at a luxury London hotel.

A former banker, Ms Thirsk worked at Buckingham Palace for Prince Andrew from 2004 until last month, when she reached a settlement to terminate her role as his private secretary.

Ms Thirsk had played a key role in shaping his work after he was forced to step down as the UK trade envoy in 2011.

His decision to give up the title of special representative for trade and investment followed earlier controversies involving Mr Epstein.

While Ms Thirsk was partly blamed for the duke’s decision to conduct his disastrous November interview with the BBC, allies of the now-former royal aide praised her efforts to carve out a role for him that also benefited the UK economy.

In January, she reached an agreement about a five-figure legal settlement with Buckingham Palace.