With heavy debts and some large liabilities, business success has proved elusive for Peter Phillips. Add to this a rather expensive lifestyle and you can see why the eldest of the Queen’s grandchildren — and long said to be her favourite —might be on the lookout for a good commercial venture.
Selling milk from a Jersey herd in China must have seemed just the ticket.
In the television advert for Bright Dairies, shown only on Dragon TV in China and revealed in yesterday’s Daily Mail, Peter is seen being brought a glass of milk by a butler.
‘This is what I drink,’ he says as the tagline reads: ‘British royal family member, Peter Phillips.’
Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly pose for pictures on the cross country course at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire in 2007
You may think the exploitation of Peter’s royal status egregious — particularly as he was raised without an HRH on the insistence of his mother, Princess Anne.
However, it’s far from the only time Peter, 42, has made the most of his family ties.
He sold pictures of his 2008 wedding to Canadian Autumn Kelly to Hello! Magazine for £500,000, causing outrage in his family (although apparently the Queen quickly forgave him.)
Peter also infamously organised a charity Patron’s Lunch in 2016, in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday, for which one of his companies was paid almost as much as that generated for good causes.
The 15th in line to the throne and among those on the balcony at Trooping the Colour, Peter claims to have one model for his career —the Queen herself.
In an interview in 2016, he said: ‘Her work ethic and her dedication is something that I think the whole family has always aspired to.’
In practice, this has translated to Peter developing a considerable business portfolio. However, in some of his ventures, he has run up massive — and hitherto undisclosed — losses.
ALISON BOSHOFF and RUTH SUNDERLAND report . . .
NO SPARKS IN ELECTRICITY
One of Peter’s businesses, Fish Pond Ring Ltd, produces hydro electricity on the vast Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire —where Peter was raised and where his mother still lives.
Fish Pond Ring’s offices are registered to a barn on the estate and Peter is the sole director.
Accounts filed in November 2019 suggest a dire trading position.
The company has assets of £266,000 but owes more than £500,000, including a loan from Barclays bank, meaning that it has a deficit of just under £250,000.
Perhaps Peter will have more luck with two more recent ventures — in March 2019, he registered a new company called Festival of British Eventing Ltd, while in September, he incorporated another business, P&P Entertainment Ltd. Little is known about the companies which are yet to file their first year of accounts.
He sold pictures of his 2008 wedding to Canadian Autumn Kelly to Hello! Magazine for £500,000, causing outrage in his family
SPORTS COMPANY LIMPING ALONG
Things are not much brighter at Peter’s day job, as a director of SEL UK limited, a sports and events firm which is a division of an Australian company.
He is a shareholder in the company, which was set up in 2012. He was hired by entrepreneur James Erskine, a friend of his father, Captain Mark Phillips. Erskine employed Peter and sister Zara Tindall during their gap years in Australia. However, despite an impressive website, SEL’s British arm isn’t setting the world alight.
Its latest accounts, for the year ending June 2018, show that it is £26,000 in the red.
In August last year, Companies House recorded a move to strike the firm from the register — but this was rescinded weeks later.
So what does SEL do? It organises events including the Gatcombe Festival of British Eventing, which Peter has run since 2017. Zara, is on its books as a management client.
One bold idea currently under discussion at SEL is City Racing, which would see horse racing along the Mall past Buckingham Palace. Announcing it at an event in November 2018, Peter described it as a ‘bloody good idea’.
But although races were promised across Europe in 2019, with an inaugural event in the UK, to date nothing has happened.
Back in 2016, SEL was controversially paid a set fee by The Patron’s Lunch of £750,000 to organise the event in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday — a sum the organisers insist was simply to cover SEL costs.
Peter said: ‘I was very conscious to make sure we did this properly, so we went through the normal channels of approaching the Palace. We had to show that this wasn’t a case of trying to cut corners because the Queen happens to be my grandmother.’
Buckingham Palace insisted the idea had been subjected to due diligence, but subsequently it was revealed that the contract had not been put out to tender.
Final figures disclosed Her Majesty’s favoured charities received a total of marginally over £762,000.
The Queen, Prince Charles, Autumn Phillips and Peter Phillips attend the 2019 Braemar Highland Games
HOBNOBBING WITH HONG KONG TYCOON
In August last year, it was revealed that Peter was one member of the Royal Family approached by Hong Kong businessman Dr Johnny Hon, of the Global Group, to give advice on a horse racing venture in the Far East. (Fergie and Zara were the others.)
Dr Hon said: ‘It’s not because of their title that we work with them, it’s because of what they can do for individual projects. That’s what companies do — they employ ambassadors to promote their products and services.’
Peter Phillips met with Hon to have exploratory discussions about a proposed horse racing club and to provide advice on how to set it up. It was later decided not to progress the club.
Dr Hon said: ‘Peter is a smashing guy. He is very down-to-earth and he’s very knowledgeable about horse racing.’
THE PATRONAGE OF FRED THE SHRED
Disgraced banker Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin — stripped of his knighthood after his role in RBS’s downfall — is the man Peter has to thank for his early career.
After studying sports science at Exeter, Peter went into corporate entertainment with his company Tailor Made Hospitality Limited.
Set up in 2001, its last filed accounts were in 2003, when it was horribly in the red, with net liabilities of £140,000 after just 18 months in business.
Peter walked away from the disaster and started to work in corporate entertainment on the Williams Formula 1 motor racing team.
He had done work experience in F1 via family friend, Sir Jackie Stewart. Goodwin then hired Peter in 2005 to run the bank’s sponsorship of Williams F1 team.
In author Ian Fraser’s account of Goodwin’s downfall, Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain, it was observed that Peter was a part of an exceptionally lavish set-up.
Large sums were spent on RBS ‘ambassadors’, including Zara, and phenomenal sums were spent on hospitality for guests during races. Up to £200 million in total was spent on sponsoring events.
Goodwin was becoming ever more influential in Royal circles, having taken over as chairman of the Princes Trust in Scotland in 2000, then the Princes Trust in 2003, before getting a knighthood in 2004. Ian Fraser said: ‘Prince Charles regularly sang Fred Goodwin’s praises and Goodwin seemed to make it his business to ingratiate himself with the Royal Family. He hired Zara, then Peter, arguably to do a favour for the royals.’
Sir Fred Goodwin, Mark Fisher, Peter Phillips and Jackie Stewart are pictured together
THE BLONDE CANADIAN WIFE . . .
Born Autumn Kelly in 1978, Peter’s wife is the daughter of Montreal hairdresser Kitty and was raised in a modest cottage in the suburb of Pointe-Claire with her twin brother, Chris, a bricklayer and roofer, and their other sibling, Kevin, a chef.
Her parents divorced when she was eight and her mother is now remarried to Ron Magos, an airline pilot. Autumn’s uncle used to run a strip club.
Autumn has a degree in East Asian studies from Montreal’s McGill University, which was funded through her work as a model and barmaid. She had a turn as a Budweiser girl at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2003, where she met Peter Phillips.
He was working with the Williams Formula 1 team at the time. She claimed she had no idea he was a royal until six weeks into the romance, when she saw him while watching a TV programme about Prince William with her mother.
By the time of their 2008 wedding, Autumn had a job as a personal assistant to broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson.
Today, the couple are at the heart of the posh, horsey set in Gloucestershire, and are often seen zooming around the country lanes in their new, luxurious Range Rover. They have two daughters: Savannah, nine, and Isla, seven.
They’re regulars at the traditional 17th-century stone-built pub, the Ragged Cot Inn in Minchinhampton — which was also the favourite drinking hole of Peter’s parents decades ago.
Staff at the pub, where a bottle of champagne can cost up to £275, discreetly demur that the family ‘like to keep themselves to themselves.’
Autumn’s immaculate blonde hair is done at top salon Michaeljohn in Mayfair, and her wardrobe filled with dresses by the Marylebone-based designer Savannah — prices start at £1,000.
Guests at The Queen’s Patrons Lunch on The Mall in London, in celebration of her 90th birthday
. . . WITH MODEST BUSINESS INTERESTS
Autumn is a director of the business SCGB — the initials stand for Super Cars Great Britain — which offers guided driving holidays for supercar owners.
Set up with friend Rachael Thomson, their last jaunt in June 2018 took the super-wealthy from Split in Croatia to Venice. The entrance fee is £8,500, with additional expenses on top. Peter’s friend, Johnny Hon, also took part.
Autumn and Ms Thomson are described in the company literature as ‘elite events professionals with more than ten years’ experience with High Net Worth Individual events’.
Sadly, the figures are far from impressive. Micro accounts filed in June 2019 state that the company has net assets of just £1,670 and owes £63,000.
Autumn is also the director of two other businesses. First, APP Consultancy Limited, so-called because of her initials (her middle name is Patricia), which was set up in September 2014 and is run from 600-acre Aston Farm, home to both Peter and Autumn as well as Zara and her family.
According to accounts filed in June 2019, it has net current assets of £16,000. Autumn is both company secretary and director.
Her second business is Pheasant and Partridge Enterprises Limited, which appears to be an events firm setting up shoots. Founded in 2013, she and Peter are both directors and the registered offices are again at Aston Farm.
Latest accounts show only modest success, with current assets of £20,000, up from £8,000 in 2018.
A (FREE) PLACE TO CALL HOME . . .
Peter’s home on Aston Farm is a large affair in golden Cotswold stone, situated on the 730-acre Gatcombe Park estate, which was a gift from the Queen to her only daughter in 1976.
Princess Anne and her second husband, Sir Timothy Laurence, live in the manor house.
Zara and her family also live on the farm estate, homes which are presumably rent-free.
Peter says that he is a Bear Grylls-style countryman, opining: ‘I’m a bit of a hunter-gatherer. My wife gets slightly upset when I bring a rabbit back and skin it on the kitchen table.’
. . . AND MONEY FROM GREAT-GRANNY
Peter is reportedly among the beneficiaries of a £19 million trust fund set up by the Queen Mother.
Some two-thirds of her fortune were reserved for her great-grandchildren as a tax-exempt gift. How large a chunk went to each great-grandchild has never been established — but the share given to William and Harry was said to be £6 million in total.
The other beneficiaries are said to be Peter and Zara, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Sarah Chatto and Viscount Linley, the children of Princess Margaret. If the remaining portion was equally divided, Peter would have inherited £2.16 million at the age of 21.