Diana Fund Chief Quits
By Tim Moynihan, PA
The chief executive of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund has decided to leave the post in the early autumn, it was announced today.
Andrew Purkis has held the role since June 1998.
He was at the helm during a difficult period in 2003/4 when donations were suspended as a result of a costly legal action by the US-based Franklin Mint memorabilia company, a case which was settled last November.
Dr Purkis said today: “The Fund has a fine track-record of championing charitable work, has settled the Franklin Mint case and is now completely free to resume its humanitarian mission in full.
“This is the right time for me to plan for a change and for the Fund to recruit a new chief executive with fresh vision and energy.
“For all its ups and downs, the Fund has become a tremendous force for good among neglected and stigmatised people in the UK and across the poorest countries of the world. That is the best way of honouring the Princess’s memory.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Fund and work with such fine people in the pursuit of absolutely vital humanitarian causes.”
Christopher Spence, chair of the Fund’s trustees, said: “The Board of Trustees owes Andrew Purkis a huge debt of gratitude, both for his outstanding leadership during the Fund’s formative years, reflected in our reputation for bold and innovative grant making and championing of causes, as well as for his single-minded commitment to seeing us safely through our troubles over litigation, ensuring that not one single project collapsed as a result of the freezing of the Fund’s assets.
“With this difficult period behind us, we fully understand and support his wish now to move on, which he will do with our very grateful thanks, high regard and warm wishes for the future.”
The lawsuit by the Mint threatened the future of the Fund.
Cash awards were frozen in 2003, months after the Mint announced it was suing the Fund. The Charity Commission described the move as a “massive blow” to voluntary organisations.
The Mint, based in Pennsylvania, launched its lawsuit in November 2002 after a failed 1998 court bid by the Fund to stop it producing mementoes bearing the Princess’s name and image.
The Fund compared the Mint’s owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, to “vultures” feeding on the memory of the Princess.
When that action was thrown out by a court in Los Angeles, the Mint accused the Fund and the executors of the late Princess’s estate of acting “maliciously, wantonly ... and with the intent to oppress”.
Moments before a jury was due to be selected to hear the £14 million malicious prosecution suit last November, the out-of-court settlement was announced.
The Fund and the Mint agreed that the “energy and resources” needed for a court battle would be better spent on a “mutually agreed international programme of humanitarian work” in honour of the Princess.
Dr Purkis said then: “The final settlement of this lawsuit means that we can get back to committing all our energy and money to our humanitarian work.”
The Fund was set up in September 1997, days after the Princess’s death, in response to a deluge of charitable donations and offers.
Dr Purkis, 56, was previously assistant director at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, national director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and secretary for public affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1992-98. He has received the OBE for services to national charities.