What is Peter Phillips's latest colourful business venture?
11th September 2023

Now Peter Phillips has pinned his hopes on an ice rink at Kensington Palace! It is the latest move in a controversial business career which has brought him decidedly mixed fortunes…

As the current heatwave unfolds it may be hard to focus on more wintry pleasures, but one member of the Royal Family has ice at the forefront of his mind – and now what we put in a cooling drink but the sort we skate on. 

For last week it emerged that Peter Philips, the 45-year son of Princess Anne, has been working on what he hopes to be a world-leading winter experience, unveiling plans for the UK’s largest festive ice rink to be opened later this year. 

Built on a former helipad at Kensington Palace with the majestic royal residence as a backdrop the vast venue will accommodate up to 750 skaters a day.

 It’s an ambitious project in which Peter – who was said to be the late Queen’s favourite grandson – is undoubtedly anxious to find success, after several years of decidedly mixed fortunes in the commercial world.  

Peter Philips latest business venture is an ice rink at Kensington Palace

Said to have been a favourite grandson of the late Queen, he lives at Gatcombe, close to his mother, Princess Anne. He is pictured here with daughters Isla and Savannah

An artist’s impression of the Kensington rink – for when the weather gets a little colder

Some of the publicity material for Peter’s new venture. The rink will be sited on a helipad

For while over the years the royal has developed a considerable business portfolio spanning everything from events organisation to the production of hydroelectricity, he has also amassed heavy debts and some large liabilities along the way – not to mention garnering no small degree of controversy.

In a list of business endeavours stretching back more than twenty years, Peter made his first of many sorties into the world of event management in 2001, setting up corporate entertainment company Tailor Made Hospitality Limited after graduating from his sports science degree at Exeter University.

 The venture did not last long: 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, coming to the attention of the now disgraced banker Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin who was stripped of his knighthood after his role in bringing the Royal Bank of Scotland to the brink of collapse in 2008.

Three years earlier in 2005, Goodwin had hired Peter to run the bank’s sponsorship of the Williams F1 team, placing him amid what was later described as an ‘exceptionally lavish set-up’ in which phenomenal sums were spent on hospitality for guests during races.

By 2012, four years after RBS had hit the headlines, Peter had become a shareholder in SEL UK limited, a sports and events firm which is a division of an Australian company.

On paper, it organises events including the Gatcombe Festival of British Eventing, which Peter has run since 2017, but it has otherwise failed to set the world alight. In 2016, meanwhile the company attracted controversy when it emerged that a payment it had received to organise a ‘charity’ Patron’s Lunch in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday was only a few thousand less than the sums raised and given to Her Majesty’s favoured charities: the latter received a total of marginally over £762,000, while SEL had received a set fee of £750,000 to cover costs.

 Nor had a contract to organise the lunch been put out to tender.

At one point, Peter Phillips used his royal connections to sell milk on Chinese Television

A still from the Chinese milk comercial

Peter played a leading role organising The Patron’s Lunch event for the late Queen’s 90th birthday  

Despite the involvement of the Queen herself in the venture, the charitable proceeds were judged disappointing

Two years later, accounts for the year ending June 2018, showed that the firm was £26,000 in the red, and the following year Companies House recorded a move to strike the firm from the register — although this was rescinded weeks later. 

Peter is currently listed as managing director on the company website, although it’s UK based office address on Buckingham Palace Road is marked as ‘temporarily closed’.

Another of Peter’s businesses is Fish Pond Ring Ltd – incorporated in 2014 – which produces hydroelectricity on the vast Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire where Peter was raised and still lives  close to his mother.

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.

Against this less than impressive backdrop, it is perhaps little surprise that by 2020, Peter had turned to other means to raise funds, deploying his royal status to sell Jersey-produced milk in China. 

In a television advert for Bright Dairies, shown only on the country’s Dragon TV, Peter was seen being brought a glass of milk by a butler. 

Peter and Autumn Kelly at their glamorous 2008 wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor

The occasion attracted a degree of controversy as it was sponsored by Hello magazine

The late Queen Elizabeth points out something in the flypast to her grandson Peter Phillips in 1980

‘This is what I drink,’ he says against a tagline reading: ‘British royal family member, Peter Phillips.’ 

Such overt exploitation of his royal status raised eyebrows, although it was far from the first time that Peter – whose mother eschewed the chance to give her children HRH titles – had made the most of his family ties.

He caused outrage within the inner royal circle when in 2008 he sold exclusive rights to pictures of his wedding to Canadian Autumn Kelly to Hello! Magazine for £500,000. The couple, who have two children, Savannah, 12 and eleven-year-old Isla, and separated in 2020.

Against this rather mixed backdrop it is little wonder that Peter – who was reportedly among the beneficiaries of a £19 million trust fund set up by the Queen Mother – is pinning his homes on a festive revival of fortunes with his latest venture.

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