Edward's £1m redundancy from the Queen


The huge cost of bailing out the Earl and Countess of Wessex from their embarrassing business adventures became clear last night.

The Queen is expected to foot a bill that could top £1million as Edward and Sophie move from the commercial world to become full-time working members of the Royal Family.

It includes a £250,000 compensation package for the loss of earnings they will suffer as a result of Edward giving up his Ardent TV production company and Sophie walking away from her Mayfair-based public relations consultancy.

Yet it emerged that the couple have not entirely cut their ties with the companies they founded. Prince Edward is remaining a shareholder of loss-making Ardent while his wife will continue as a non-executive director of R-J H.

The prince's announcement that their future would be in charity and royal work was made before he informed Ardent's five main shareholders - millionaires who all invested £200,000 start-up capital each.

None could be reached for comment last night although their reaction to hearing that the 'star' of Ardent is to walk away from the firm will become clear this week, when the matter will be raised in board and shareholders meetings.

An investigation by the Queen's financial chief, Sir Michael Peat, concluded that the company could not survive in its current form.

Ardent, with its annual turnover less than £500,000, managed to accumulate losses of nearly £2million over the years. Even the company's supposed 'breakthrough into profitability' last year for the first time was clouded by uncertainty.

Although the company claimed a £30,000 profit for the first time, it emerged that Ardent had not paid Edward the £50,000-a-year rent he charges for using a stable block at his Surrey mansion, Bagshot Park. It also owed his investors a £330,000 backlog of 'guaranteed' dividends.

The five main shareholders are Sir Tom Farmer, founder of the Kwik-Fit exhaust and tyre chain; Michael Kirkham, son of Tory fundraiser Lord Kirkham, owner of the DFS furniture group; Alan Jones, managing director of TNT (UK); and two Swiss benefactors.

Chairman Malcolm Cockren said Edward's decision to end his 'hands-on' involvement in the company will take effect from March 31, and in time the company would move its HQ away from Bagshot Park.

But the prince will remain a director 'until he is able to fulfilhis current contractual obligations', which means he will finish work on the Royalty: A-Z project which is due for completion in the spring.

This was the programme which earned Edward a fierce ticking off from Prince Charles when the crew filmed in St Andrews in the days after Prince William began at the university last autumn.

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