Of all the causes dear to Prince Harry’s heart, few are more important than Sentebale, the charity he co-founded as a happy-go-lucky bachelor in 2006 that is dedicated to fighting poverty and AIDS in Lesotho and Botswana. But from now on his work will go on without one of his shrewdest operators, the king of publicity Johnny Hornby.
I can reveal that Hornby, 56, the half-brother of About A Boy author Nick Hornby and brother-in-law of bestselling thriller Robert Harris, retired after 11 years as a trustee, the last five of which he was Chairman of the Board of Sit him down.
His departure has prompted Harry to pay tribute to his “leadership and vision” and “dedication, partnership and friendship.” Describing Hornby’s commitment to children and young people in southern Africa as “incredible”, Harry and the charity’s co-founder, Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, thank him for allowing Sentebale to “provide holistic support to thousands in Lesotho and Botswana”.
Fellow businessmen in the land of cutthroat advertising recognize Hornby’s talent. He is smart, of that there is no doubt. A good trader and a tough business man,’ one tells me, adding that Hornby is comparable in many ways to the advertising titan, and his former ally, Sir Martin Sorrell.
There is certainly no doubt about Hornby’s smoothness. During his time as administrator at Sentebale, he was regularly seen in easy, friendly conversations with Harry and Meghan, or walking discreetly behind them, as he did when the couple attended a London performance of Hamilton, the award-winning rap musical.
Johnny Hornby has stepped down as chairman of Prince Harry’s charity after 11 years. Pictured: Hornby with Meghan Markle at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in July 2018
The advertising king has a business partnership with Jeremy Clarkson, who faced backlash over comments he made about Meghan Markle in a column. Pictured: Clarkson (left), Hornby (center) and Kaleeb Cooper (right) at the launch of Hawkstone beer in November 2021
However, his intimacy with the Sussexes did not stop him from replicating a similarly warm friendship and professional relationship with someone far outside the couple’s circle: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
Sharing the high-octane broadcaster’s ambition and optimism, Hornby joined him at a brewing company, Hawkstone, to produce a strong ale, as well as a pale ale and cider.
Their association might have gone under the radar, had it not been for Clarkson’s decision to write an article, late last year, in which he noted that he hated Meghan on ‘a cellular level’ and added, apparently inspired by a scene from Game of Thrones- who wanted to see her parade through the streets, naked, while people threw excrement at her.
When this drew howls of criticism, Clarkson wrote a private and confidential letter to Harry on Christmas Day.
It is said that this was when Hornby intervened. “Johnny is friends with both Jeremy and Harry, so he was in the middle of it all,” said one of Hornby’s allies. “He suggested that it would be a good idea for Jeremy to apologize.”
Clarkson evidently took the hint and penned a full and abject public apology.
It failed to placate Harry and Meghan, who issued a statement saying it was “clear that this is not an isolated incident shared hastily, but rather a series of hateful articles shared.”
But the apology worked in one respect: a boycott of Hawkstone beer, which seemed possible, and which had already been instituted by one pub, did not materialise.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were not appeased by Clarkson’s apology for his comments, writing that it was “clear that this is not an isolated incident shared in haste, but a series of articles shared in hate.” Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Wave of Hope Gala at the New York Hilton in December 2022
Only the most cynical would suggest that Hornby’s sole motivation was to protect his shared brewing interests with Clarkson. When asked in the past about his work for Sentebale, and if it could be a stepping stone to a knighthood, he immediately responded: “If anyone deserves one, it would be Harry himself for his work.”
But the end of his association with the charity may make things a little easier for his second wife, Clare, with whom he lives in Notting Hill, west London. Not to be outshone, she founded and runs the £100m+ clothing brand Me + Em’s.
When asked last year who had the biggest impact on her business, she unhesitatingly answered ‘the Duchess’ – not Meghan, but Catherine, who, at the time, was, of course, the Duchess of Cambridge. ‘There’s no one like her. In terms of global appeal, nothing comes close,” added Clare. That’s right. She is amazing. so stoic
Nothing even her extremely suave husband could do about it…