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BBC Chairman Richard Sharp Resigns Over Loan To Ex-UK PM Boris Johnson

The publicly funded national broadcaster has been under pressure after it was revealed that Sharp, a Conservative Party donor, helped arrange a loan for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before he was appointed to the BBC post on the government's recommendation

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The chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp quit on Friday after a report found that he breached government rules governing public appointments.

The publicly funded national broadcaster has been under pressure after it was revealed that Sharp, a Conservative Party donor, helped arrange a loan for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before he was appointed to the BBC post on the government's recommendation.

Sharp said he was quitting to “prioritize the interests of the BBC” after making an “inadvertent” breach of the rules. A report on the incident by senior lawyer Adam Heppinstall is due to be published on Friday.

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The 67-year-old former banker, who has been the chairman of the UK taxpayer-funded licence fee-backed British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said the investigation found he had breached the governance code for public appointments.

The independent review, led by barrister Adam Heppinstall, looked at Sharp’s appointment and his involvement in facilitating an 800,000-pound loan to Johnson. "Mr Heppinstall’s view is that while I did breach the governance code for public appointments, he states that a breach does not necessarily invalidate an appointment,” Sharp said in a statement.

"Indeed, I have always maintained the breach was inadvertent and not material, which the facts he lays out substantiate… Nevertheless, I have decided that it is right to prioritise the interests of the BBC. I feel that this matter may well be a distraction from the Corporation’s good work were I to remain in post until the end of my term. I have therefore this morning resigned as BBC Chair to the Secretary of State, and to the Board," he said.

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"To chair this incredible organisation has been an honour," he added. Heppinstall was appointed by the UK’s Commissioner of Public Appointments to investigate claims which appeared in ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper.

Sharp said the report finds he did not play "any part whatsoever in the facilitation, arrangement, or financing of a loan for the former Prime Minister". But he said with hindsight he should have disclosed his role in setting up a meeting between UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Sam Blyth – a businessman who was offering the then Prime Minister financial help – to the appointments panel during the scrutiny process ahead of him taking up the senior role at the 100-year-old public broadcaster. 

He admitted not doing so was an "oversight" and apologised for it. Sharp has said he will remain in his post until a replacement is found, which is likely to be until June.

The BBC chairman is a post filled on the recommendation of the government. The broadcaster's neutrality had come under severe scrutiny over revelations that Sharp — a donor to the governing Conservative Party — had been involved in the arrangement of a loan for Johnson in 2021. Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, also happens to be British Prime Minister Sunak’s former boss during his days in the private sector.

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Sunak has previously declined to be drawn into the controversy, saying: "Richard Sharp went through an independent appointments process at the time that I had nothing to do with – he was appointed before I was prime minister.”

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