Prince Harry has announced another new job today – his second in 48 hours – as a celebrity commissioner for an American study into the ‘avalanche of misinformation’ in the digital world funded by a controversial billionaire whose business was blamed for helping wipe out newspapers.
The Duke of Sussex is joining the left-leaning Aspen Institute’s new Commission on Information Disorder in Washington DC along with 14 others including Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of Rupert Murdoch’s son James, who resigned from his father’s media empire last year.
The Aspen Institute is one of America’s best known, and best funded think tanks, drawing cash from rich donors and big businesses, including Facebook. The organisation, whose HQ is a few blocks from the White House, looks at all areas of US life and says its mission is to build a ‘free, just, and equitable society’.
Harry, who blames the press for emigrating to Los Angeles with his wife Meghan and son Archie last January, said in a statement today: ‘As I’ve said, the experience of today’s digital world has us inundated with an avalanche of misinformation, affecting our ability as individuals as well as societies to think clearly and truly understand the world we live in.
‘It’s my belief that this is a humanitarian issue and as such, it demands a multi-stakeholder response from advocacy voices, members of the media, academic researchers, and both government and civil society leaders. I’m eager to join this new Aspen commission and look forward to working on a solution-oriented approach to the information disorder crisis.’
The Sussexes, who have signed deals worth more than $100million with Netflix and Spotify, were accused of making various questionable statements during the Oprah interview, including claims about a secret wedding carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury three days before the official one at a chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. But their wedding certificate later proved this was a false statement.
Viacom CBS, who made the Oprah interview, were also accused of mangling and editing UK newspaper headlines to support its disputed claims about racist press coverage.
Harry’s new role as a ‘philanthropic leader’ is part-time, and will involve regular meetings. Joining him on the panel will be former Texas congressman Will Hurd, Sue Gordon, the former principal deputy director of national intelligence in the US, and Kathryn Murdoch, the ‘radical centrist’ daughter-in-law of billionaire media mogul Rupert.
The commission is being funded by billionaire entrepreneur Craig Newmark, who founded the Craigslist, a classified adverts website branded a ‘cesspool’ after it emerged hundreds of crimes were facilitated as a result of contact via the site, including women exploited in a growing ‘sex for rent’ scandal during the coronavirus pandemic. Craigslist has also been accused of wiping out newspapers by taking away the classified adverts they relied on to stay afloat.
Just last month Tucker Carlson said a ‘farcical’ study that claimed there is no real censorship of American conservatives on social media could not be taken seriously because it had no ‘reliable evidence to support it’ and came from an organization funded, in part, by the philanthropy of Mr Newmark.
Today it emerged Harry started his first proper job at a Californian startup dubbed life coaching Tinder for millennials in January – but they waited to announce it until after his Oprah interview was watched by tens of millions around the globe.
Harry’s newest position comes more than a fortnight after the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which the couple both criticised the British media.
Harry said the UK tabloid media was ‘bigoted’ and created a ‘toxic environment’ of ‘control and fear’.
James Murdoch’s wife Kathryn is another famous name on the 15-strong panel with Harry.
She has voiced her agreement that her husband’s family, which owns Fox News, must ‘put their country above their profits’ and disavow President Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.
Mrs Murdoch, 47, expressed the sentiment in a tweet in November, saying she agreed with CNN host Jake Tapper, who had stated: ‘The Murdochs and the people at Fox have an obligation to put their country above their profits. It is very important that people make it very clear – that there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud.’
Her husband James stepped down from the board of Fox News parent News Corp in July, citing disagreements with some of the company’s editorial content.
James is known as the liberal Murdoch son, while his brother Lachlan’s views seem to be more aligned with those of his conservative father.
Earlier in 2020 Katrhryn spoke out about her ‘radical centrist’ politics in an interview with Politico’s Women Rule podcast.
‘This is the first time where I’ve really decided that I have a voice and I need to try to use it,’ said Kathryn, who has long quietly supported climate change causes after Al Gore convinced her the issue was urgent in a 2006 presentation.
‘The decisions we make in the next few years are going to have an impact on coming generations,’ Kathryn said. ‘I need to know that I’ve done everything that I can possibly do.’
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is funding the Aspen Institute’s new Commission on Information Disorder, with Harry its most high-profile member.
Two years ago Mr Newmark announced he was donating $20 million to the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism .
Newmark claimed he was doing it to build a sustainable future for trustworthy journalism.
The New York Times claims that Craigslist put a dent in newspaper classified ads and is often blamed, in part, for the industry’s revenue decline.
Newmark says newspapers started losing circulation and revenue ‘long before Craigslist.’
Craiglist, which is no longer run by Newmark, has been rocked by a series of scandals revealed by investigative journalism.
In January it emerged investors in the US website Craigslist are profiting from the exploitation of vulnerable young British women.
Men use the site to target university students – with some even specifying they seek ‘Oxbridge’ or ‘first class’ graduates.
Research from the charity Shelter suggests 30,000 women in the UK have been propositioned with explicit ‘arrangements’ since March. The arrangements are illegal and those convicted can be jailed for seven years, but there has never been a prosecution.
It was found that disgusting adverts are posted every day from across the UK – with a surge going online during lockdown.
In 2011 Craigslist was embroiled in a public row with a competitor after it branded the on-line classifieds website a ‘cesspool of crime’.
Internet marketplace Oodle commissioned ‘market research’ which identified 300 crimes in 2010 which were facilitated as a result of contact via Craigslist.
They included 12 murders and 105 robberies and led Oodle to conclude that ‘sadly Craigslist has become a cesspool of crime’.
Craigslist denied the claims as smears from a rival, but finally backed down after its founder Mr Newmark was criticised in a series of damaging TV interviews.
Harry’s latest job announcement came hours after it emerged he started his first proper job at a Californian startup dubbed life coaching Tinder for millennials in January – but they waited to announce it until after his Oprah interview was watched by tens of millions around the globe, it was revealed today.
The Duke of Sussex has been appointed ‘chief impact officer’ at mental health services business BetterUp by CEO Alexi Robichaux, who says his royal employee insists on everyone calling him Harry because they are all ‘partners’ in the business valued at $1.7billion.
The Duke will help to promote a wellness app used by corporate giants including Hilton, Facebook, NASA, confectionery giant Mars and oil firm Chevron to improve the wellbeing of their staff.
Harry, whose new role at the firm could command a seven-figure salary plus share options, was introduced to the BetterUp co-founder through unnamed mutual friend last year, and after they weighed up ‘four buckets of opportunities’, they agreed to start working together, Mr Robichaux said today.
He said: ‘He’s been in the role for a couple of months, and we’re so excited to share the news with the world. We’re partners here, he likes to be called Harry in the workplace, so we just address him as Harry.’
Brand expert Mark Bukowski told MailOnline that timing the announcement for after the Oprah interview generated free publicity worth millions of dollars for the startup, and could help Harry cash in if he has shares in the business.
Tech-CEO Mr Robichaux, who likes to quote Einstein and Marcus Aurelius and once gave a presentation on his business to leading scientists and academics while wearing a spacesuit, told Sky News today: ‘We were just so impressed, and really I think there was such a natural chemistry and synergy around the insights and the contributions he can make creatively to BetterUp in ensuring that we achieve our mission.
‘Bigger than commercial success, this is about global impact, and so as we crafted the role together, those four buckets of opportunities, we came to the title ‘chief impact officer’, really denoting that he’s focused on our mission and he’s focused on ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to achieve our mission on a bigger and larger and grander scale to impact the lives of more people.’
He added: ‘He’s also helping to work on everything from product design to product strategy, to co-creating content and the experience for our members and helping with partnerships, like creating some new content for our users related to mental toughness and mental fitness as well.’
Harry’s first real job will see him spending time at the firm’s San Francisco office – when Covid-19 allows – where the prince can take part in weekly office yoga sessions, beat a punch bag when he’s frustrated or pet the office dog ‘Gordo’ when he’s concerned about his ‘wellness’. He can also bring his dogs Guy and Pula to work if he likes.
BetterUp also throws regular onesie-fancy dress parties for staff, including at Halloween – but if this gets too much for the prince he can relax using some of his five ‘inner work’ days a year – on top of his holiday days – to focus on ‘personalised growth’ by hiking in California, reading books or doing volunteer work.
His new office has sofas to flop on during a hard day and games to play when staff need a break, with one employee, Lily, saying the office was designed for both work and play. She said: ‘When one of us is flourishing, the whole team gets stronger. So every decision we made about what to put in the office had those baselines in mind’.
Harry’s CEO, a devout Christian fluent in Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, said he had experimented with therapy and life coaching in his twenties and the idea for BetterUp came to him while on a pilgrimage of self-reflection to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. His mantra is: ‘I don’t believe technology is the enemy when used right.’
Prince Harry announced his first job in the corporate world yesterday by revealing he had taken an executive position at a Silicon Valley start-up that claims to be worth $1.7billion.
Robichaux’s company uses a app-based system for workers to swipe through 2,000-plus life coaches to find the one they want – in a similar format to Tinder.
Mr Robichaux has declined to say how much the royal will be paid, although similar roles at other California firms would command six or seven-figure salaries.
PR guru Mark Bukowski told MailOnline it is yet another step for the Sussexes towards the building of their dream of a billion dollar brand in the US, after big money deals with Netflix and Spotify.
He said the deal is worth millions to the startup in free publicity, adding: ‘If he’s done a good deal with a salary as well as shares in the business, it will probably make millions for Harry too.’
Harry was introduced to Mr Robichaux through an unnamed mutual friend – and it is not yet known if he has invested in the company, where other backers include the Dubai sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Capital and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White.
Executives who join American start-ups are often awarded large share options which can make them multi-millionaires when the company sells up or floats – regardless of whether they invest in the firm.
In a statement introducing himself to his new colleagues, Harry also revealed that every employee of his Archewell foundation will get access to its services.
Mr Robichaux said Harry has already helped make decisions at the business, including at a recent strategy meeting where he ‘recommended that executives frame the tool in terms of resilience and overcoming adversity and setbacks in a challenging time’.
He added that the sixth-in-line to the British throne ‘comes from a very different background’ to his colleagues.
BetterUp is thought to charge companies about $2,000 (£1,450) per worker for six months of executive coaching, and has more than 200 employees and 2,000 contract coaches on its books.
Mr Robichaux – who is in his 30s and grew up in Dallas, Texas, where his father was a biblical linguist father and his Greek immigrant mother worked for Texas Instruments – has compared the app to a life coaching Tinder for millennials to keep them happy at work.
He has spoken about his Christian beliefs and said the firm came to him as an epiphany while doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain, and attended the University of Southern California (USC) along with co-founder Eduardo Medina.
Harry, who has served in the British Army but has no corporate experience, will not manage any employees but will be expected to appear at special company events and spend time at the firm’s San Francisco offices for meetings once Covid restrictions are lifted.
The Duke, 36, revealed he has been using BetterUp’s services including talking to one of its ‘truly awesome’ coaches for a couple of months who gave him ‘sound advice and a fresh perspective’.
He wrote in a blog post how he will focus on ‘driving advocacy and awareness for mental fitness’, helping to guide the firm’s ‘social mission and impact’, ‘influencing the vision of BetterUp’s platform, community and member experience’ and expand its ‘global community of thought leadership, coaches, customers, and members through outreach and strategic planning’.
Explaining why he took the job, Harry told the Wall Street Journal in a suitably corporate response: ‘I intend to help create impact in people’s lives. Proactive coaching provides endless possibilities for personal development, increased awareness, and an all-round better life’.
Mr Bukowski added: ‘He’s got this woke job title of Chief Impact Officer and today’s announcement has done just that for the company, had a huge impact.
‘This announcement is worth millions to this startup in free publicity and if he’s done a good deal with a salary as well as shares in the business, it will probably make millions for Harry too.
‘He could never have done this deal if he was still a working member of the Royal Family. They’ve announced the job just after the Oprah interview, amid an outpouring of support for the couple in the US. They’re on a crest of a wave there. If the company is as good as Harry says, it is a smart move. But if it’s a pile of poop, he won’t have to many more chances to cash in.’
He added: ‘If people weren’t clear on Harry and Meghan’s business strategy, they should be now.’
He added: ‘This is about acknowledging that it isn’t so much what is wrong with us, but more about what has happened to us over the course of life. Often because of societal barriers, financial difficulty, or stigma, too many people aren’t able to focus on their mental health until they’re forced to. I want us to move away from the idea that you have to feel broken before reaching out for help’.
The prince, who says he has been using BetterUp’s app since January, began talks with them about a role last autumn after being introduced to USC graduate Mr Robichaux ‘through a mutual friend’.
BetterUp employs therapists and executive coaches on contracts, who are paired with clients to provide mental health coaching by video link through the app. Most of its clients are in the United States, but it does have executive coaches employed in the UK.
The tech firm that works with corporate giants including Facebook, Google, Snap Inc, NASA, Hilton and Warner Brothers. There will be some raised eyebrows because Harry has spoken widely on the need to protect the environment, but BetterUp has also worked with oil giant Chevron.
A list of values on BetterUp’s website including: ‘courage, playfulness, empathy, craftspersonship, grit and zest.’
MailOnline understands that Google offered leadership coaching to staff through Better Up in 2020. Access to the app, including virtual classes, costs $3,600 per person for 12 months membership.