ALISON BOSHOFF: The Sussexes are separating… their brands!

After all those rumours, the Sussexes are separating… their brands! ALISON BOSHOFF reveals how Meghan wants to escape Harry’s victim narrative and ‘lead with love’, while he wants to be seen as a global philanthropist

For a couple who have so noisily prided themselves on their unbreakable togetherness, Prince Harry and Meghan have been frequently, confoundingly, separate of late.

In the space of just over a week in which they made several high-profile public appearances, the pair have been together just the once: at a Beyonce concert last Friday in Los Angeles. Meghan’s mum Doria came along, too, and Harry veered between dancing enthusiastically and looking bored rigid.

Other appearances for the couple, however, were very strictly on a solo basis. Take Meghan’s second visit to Beyonce on Monday, where she had her picture taken with actress Kerry Washington and Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland. Washington was perhaps less impressed; woundingly, she posted an image of herself with Rowland in which only Meghan’s arm was visible.

On Thursday, Harry was in London at the WellChild awards, while tomorrow he’s going it alone again in Dusseldorf, Germany, for the Invictus Games — his big relaunch as a philanthropist.

Professional separation between the pair has become increasingly notable, too: Harry’s Invictus charity, for example, which does remarkable work with injured servicemen and women, is hugely meaningful to him — but is very much his project, not his wife’s.

ALISON BOSHOFF: For a couple who have so noisily prided themselves on their unbreakable togetherness, Prince Harry and Meghan have been frequently, confoundingly, separate of late

Meghan’s second visit to Beyonce on Monday, where she had her picture taken with actress Kerry Washington and Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland, was a solo one

Harry’s Invictus charity, for example, which does remarkable work with injured servicemen and women, is hugely meaningful to him

Prince Harry reacts during a match between Inter Miami CF and Los Angeles Football Club at BMO Stadium on September 3

Meghan is due to join him in Dusseldorf later next week, but seems to have thought better of playing a formal role, and her name has dropped off the diary of events. Don’t forget that she was missing in action for the media blitz for Harry’s book Spare and, again, didn’t make more than the most fleeting appearance in her husband’s latest Netflix documentary, Heart Of Invictus.

READ MORE: Prince Harry touches down in Germany for Invictus Games after making solo trip to Windsor church where the Queen was laid to rest

And, notably, it is Meghan, and not Harry, who has signed up with super-agent Ari Emanuel in a deal which will seemingly make her a global lifestyle influencer with a side order of philanthropy — more of which later.

Of course, for more everyday couples, it’s hardly unusual to work separately and socialise as individuals. But these two have utterly defined their post-royal existence as a publicly united pair — and thus sought to monetise their love story therein.

Indeed, who can fail to remember the image of the two entwined palm trees, connected at the roots, in their Montecito garden, described so famously by Harry to Meghan as ‘My love, it’s us’?

So what does all this recent separation signify? It is more about brand separation as opposed to personal separation.

Some claim the couple’s five-year marriage is heading for the divorce courts, fuelled by Meghan’s habit of removing her engagement and eternity rings, as she did on Monday at the concert.

One LA source, with a senior media position in Hollywood, tells me: ‘It’s 100 per cent over. That’s what I hear, and I’ve been hearing it for months.’ Another says Netflix aren’t likely to renew their deal in two years, for the simple reason they don’t expect them to be a couple by that point.

Others disagree that there is anything awry with their personal relationship.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the 2021 Salute To Freedom Gala

Tomorrow Harry’s going it alone again in Dusseldorf, Germany, for the Invictus Games

Prince Harry makes a solo trip to Windsor church today where the Queen was laid to rest – to mark the one-year anniversary of his grandmother’s death

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2018

At a Beyonce concert last Friday, Harry veered between dancing enthusiastically and looking bored rigid

The findings of an investigation by the Mail into what the future holds for the Sussexes indicates something rather different, and gives a fascinating insight into their long-term intentions.

Speaking to friends of Meghan, and by examining the couple’s financial dealings, we can reveal the new buzz phrase for the Montecito two is ‘brand separation’.

READ MORE: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will stay in luxury £2,000-a-night Presidential Suite for Invictus Games

And to help the couple monetise this new ethos there is, we have discovered, a hitherto unreported Mr Fixit moneyman, who is proving key to stabilising the Sussexes’ financial future: Adam Lilling, a venture capitalist, with a history of lucrative right-on investments, who is an adviser to TV host Ellen DeGeneres, a long-time friend of Meghan. 

Indeed, Lilling was with Harry — again without his wife — at a football match in LA over the weekend, where the men seemed at ease in each other’s company.

Nick Ede, a brand and culture expert, and friend of the duchess dating from the period before she met Harry, casts light on what Lilling’s presence reveals — and unpicks what ‘brand separation’ means in practice.

‘I’ve spoken to mutual friends and it’s not true they are divorcing,’ says Ede. ‘What is actually happening is they are trying now to undo the damage they did with the Harry & Meghan documentary and Spare, which made them into a toxic couple.

‘The first way to do that is to allow Meghan to get away from the victim narrative and away from Harry so people can see who she is.

‘Meghan needs to forget about being a duchess and forget about good works. She has been isolated in Montecito and hiding away. But she is fun and funny, which is why we became friends. There wasn’t anything fun in [the documentary] or in the [Spotify] podcasts.

Prince Harry in London for the WellChild Awards 2023 held at The Hurlingham Club

Harry made yet another solo trip to the WellChild Awards in London this week

Prince Harry (R) and Meghan Markle (L) attend a Wheelchair Tennis match during the Invictus Games 2017

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and The Duchess of Sussex leave Windsor Castle after getting married in 2018

‘She will use Instagram to connect directly with fans around the world and to step out into who she is, which is not at all a victim.

‘She is 100 per cent a celebrity and will concentrate on that while Harry does whatever moves him.

‘If they are wise, they will copy the Beckhams, where each half of the couple has their own “thing” and they do only a small amount together. She could easily earn a million dollars. There is a lot of money which she will make very easily — as long as she does it away from him.’

READ MORE: Prince Harry says the late Queen ‘is looking down on us all, happy we’re together’ as he returns to the UK for the first time in months

Hence the new public separation. After all, the financial dividends from revealing their love story have been largely exhausted with their tell-all Netflix documentary. Now, hot on its heels, comes the solo rebrand.

Perhaps it’s this expectation of a social-media fuelled payday for a rebooted independent Meghan which explains U.S. reports the couple have toured a property lot for sale in Malibu, with a view to possibly buying it as a home base.

It would be far closer to LA, cutting their journey into town from two hours to one — but with the land alone on sale for $8 million (£6.4 million) and the (unbuilt) house costing $10 million (£8 million), it’s a stunning expression of financial confidence that the pair are even considering such a move.

Their current home was bought with a $9.5 million mortgage, costing $40,000 a month. Add in $68,000 a year property taxes, $300,000 on staff and $3.3 million on security, and you’d have to be pretty relaxed about your finances to consider such an undertaking. But as I’ve discovered, it’s the presence of Adam Lilling which has seemingly made the duke and duchess so expansive in their planning.

Lilling, who has quietly been advising the couple for three years, owns venture capital company Plus Capital. After investing in the San Francisco-based coaching company BetterUp way back in 2016, Lilling was able to then help Harry to join them as ‘chief impact officer’ on a reported seven-figure salary in March 2021.

Similarly, although never previously reported, he appears to be the man behind Meghan’s sole investment to date — in the latte brand Clevr Blends. She signed that deal in December 2020, fresh out of Megxit — and Clevr Brands is represented by none other than Plus Capital.

During the first episode of the Heart of Ivictus Netflix series, Meghan can be seen as she joins Harry at the November 2021 Salute to Freedom Gala in New York

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement in 2017

Meghan Markle dancing at the Beyonce concert last Friday, alongside her mother Doria Ragland and husband Harry

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex attend the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards in May

Both investments will be paying dividends as both brands saw an instant uptick when the couple got involved.

Sources indicate Lilling works in concert with Andrew Meyer, Meghan’s business manager, who has been with her since her days on the show Suits. But the Sussexes apparently first got to know Lilling via Ellen DeGeneres, who became firm friends with Meghan after the two met by chance at a dog shelter in 2012. Lilling made a killing for Ellen and her wife Portia de Rossi by recommending they invest in Beyond Meat, another right-on company his organisation advises.

After they put money in, the stock promptly soared. Since then, the couple have invested in Pachama, a carbon credits company — again on Lilling’s advice.

Neither Lilling nor the Sussexes responded to requests to clarify their professional relationship.

Clearly, Lilling is adept at linking cash to good works. His key client and friend, actor Matthew McConaughey, is even being spoken of as a potential next governor of Texas thanks to his new focus — and Lilling’s guidance — on philanthropy. So might Lilling be planning to work a similar kind of magic on Harry? 

READ MORE: RICHARD EDEN: Harry and Meghan caused Queen Elizabeth real heartache – so who can blame King Charles for snubbing them? 

Indeed, it’s interesting that Lilling was pictured looking so cosy with Harry, who’s undoubtedly the half of the couple who will want to remain focused on philanthropy. While Harry earned huge money from Spare — at least $20 million (£16 million) — multiple sources say he has no appetite to keep endlessly picking at the sores of his fractured family relationships, and wants to fund his vision of himself: a global philanthropist.

Meghan, meanwhile, say those close to the pair, wants to be ‘true to herself’ and develop a new brand which is young, fun, powerful, optimistic and ‘leads with love’.

With the discovery of Lilling’s involvement, you have to wonder if Harry was referring to him when he told Oprah ‘somebody else’ suggested he sign up with Netflix in 2020.

‘We didn’t have a plan. That [the streaming deal] was suggested by somebody else by the point of where my family literally cut me off financially, and I had to afford security for us,’ he said.

That deal, of course, was a five-year $100 million (£80 million) contract, of which the jewel in the crown was the tell-all at-home documentary, with the Invictus documentary also commissioned early on.

Fascinatingly, the Invictus charity’s financial report — submitted in July — reveals the streaming giant didn’t just pay Harry as a producer and participant of the two shows they’ve released with him, but also made a large contribution to Invictus’s coffers.

The charity’s report notes that, in the year ending December 2022, some £857,000 came from sponsorship and programme rights income. In the previous year £450,000 came through. Last year, the figure included the final 60 per cent of the funds.

Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex visit to Canada House, London in 2020

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit Croke Park, home of Ireland’s largest sporting organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association in 2018

Prince Harry and Megan Duchess of Sussex attends a reception for young people, community and civil society leaders in Cape Town, 2019

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018

Given that the charity had total income of £2.07 million during this period, and gave away £2.02 million, it’s simple to grasp how significant the money is.

Sources at the charity say the money isn’t all from Netflix, but decline to discuss how much is.

Added to this, it looks as if in addition to the programme rights income, Harry has made a further personal contribution to Invictus — which suggests the charity is even more reliant on Netflix money.

On the foundation’s website it is noted: ‘The Duke of Sussex and Archewell productions are redirecting all compensation they would otherwise receive for this project to the Invictus Games Foundation.’

Sources say that a ‘six-figure fee’ would be in order.

A spokesperson for Netflix did not return requests for comment. Sources at the charity also did not divulge figures.

READ MORE: Prince Harry showed his ‘inner anxiety’ but was ‘keen to get stuck in’ at WellChild Awards on the eve of the anniversary of the Queen’s death, says body language expert 

It looks highly possible, though, that more than £1 million was given to the charity by Netflix.

The issue for the foundation’s future, of course, is now the royal programme and Invictus documentary have been released, the gravy train may have left the station.

It seems unlikely that a second documentary series will be commissioned, particularly as the Invictus documentary has not hit the streamers’ Top Ten.

Harry is in the early stages of discussing a documentary series with Netflix, apparently involving oil drilling in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, but owing to the current writers’ strike it is not progressing. For all its worth, it’s hard to see that project making waves, either.

And so nobody in the media expects the couple’s Netflix deal to be renewed on the same favourable terms. The pressing question for Harry, and for the charity, then, is what the potential limits are to Netflix’s largesse, what impact they will have on its good works —and who might replace them in funding Harry’s passion project if they bow out?

Interestingly, the Invictus report also shows Harry has created a halo of mutually beneficial links between his charitable and commercial enterprises, which further emphasises Lilling’s use to him.

Take BetterUp, the company promoted by Lilling to the Prince. They are listed as one of ‘partners and supporters’ of the charity, and recently renewed their sponsorship of Invictus for a second year.

Elsewhere in the report it is noted: ‘Through the support of our partner BetterUp, we have also been able to offer six-month one-to-one Life/Executive Coaching Packages for 206 WIS (Wounded Injured and Sick servicemen and women) and 39 family and friends from 16 nations.’

A package costs around £1,570 for an individual so this would amount to £384,650 worth of coaching, a significant sum, plus a further amount of sponsorship.

With all this manoeuvring in mind, the couple’s public separation makes perfect sense in terms of Hollywood’s ultimate currency: cold, hard cash.

Meghan the celebrity looks likely to take the social media dollar with her expected return to Instagram and is planning a number of commercial deals. As for Harry the philanthropist, one can’t help but conclude he needs another billionaire to fund his planned good deeds.

Perhaps Adam Lilling will be all too happy to assist Harry in finding another promising prospect — while his wife relaunches herself as the woman she was before they met: fun, glamorous, powerful and free.

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