Harry’s new boss says hiring is no publicity stunt

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Prince Harry; Royal Family
Prince Harry

The Duke of Sussex’s new boss says he hired him because of his tenacious advocacy for the kind of mental health services his firm provides, insisting the publicity brought by the move was a bonus.

Alexi Robichaux spoke to The Associated Press a day after it was officially announced Harry was filling the newly-created role of chief impact officer at the San Francisco-based BetterUp Inc, which sells companies employee coaching and mental health help.

“Prince Harry has been one of the fiercest advocates for mental wellness or mental fitness for many years,” said group CEO Mr Robichaux, citing Harry’s work for organisations like Head Fit, a service he launched in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence.

“This has been a big part of his personal life’s journey and his personal life’s mission.”

He conceded it did not hurt that the duke was among the world’s most famous men and seemed to constantly be making news along with wife Meghan.

“It’s awesome. I mean, look, we’ll take the press, it certainly helps,” he said, “(but) that’s not the driving motivation here.”

Mr Robichaux, who also revealed in Wednesday interviews Harry had been in the position for “a couple of months”, said the role emerged through months of conversations between he and Harry after they were introduced by an unnamed mutual friend who believed the two thought alike.

“There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm on both sides around this mission of how could we use technology, how could we use science, how could we use human experts to help people go through a personal growth and transformation journey?” Mr Robichaux said. “And so that was the start.”

‘He likes to roll up his sleeves’

The pandemic has kept him from meeting Harry in person, however, and that might not happen soon. The company, whose work deals in helping employees via text and video conference, is naturally friendly to working remotely even under normal circumstances, and that is what Harry will primarily do.

Harry and Meghan

Mr Robichaux said the duke would not have an office at the company’s San Francisco headquarters or have employees who reported directly to him.

“He will come into offices and attend company events, once that’s safe and things reopen,” Mr Robichaux said.

He said he was not worried about the practicalities of having a prince roaming the halls or appearing at meetings, and that he would not use any royal titles.

“In the workplace, he prefers to be called Harry,” the CEO said. “So we address him as Harry.

“He’s extremely approachable and accessible, and he certainly is very stately and dignified. But I think one of the coolest things is he likes to roll up his sleeves and be helpful and very focused on adding value.”

And Mr Robichaux said while he was technically Harry’s boss, he would avoid that approach to their relationship.

“It’s funny, I never thought about it until this week when reporters have been asking me what it feels like,” he said. “I don’t think of it that way. I really think of him as a partner.”

Prince Harry acquired another new role Wednesday, this one on a think tank’s commission to fight disinformation.

The Washington DC-based Aspen Institute announced Harry would be one of 18 members of its Commission on Information Disorder.

The duke said in a statement the current “avalanche of misinformation” should be approached as “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”.

The new jobs for Harry are among several he and Meghan have taken on since moving to California, including signing a deal to create content for Netflix and creating podcasts for Spotify.

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