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BBC Chair Richard Sharp Resigns Over Role in Boris Johnson Loan Saga

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has resigned over his role in a 2020 loan to then U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sharp has been under pressure to step down ever since a damning report in the U.K.’s Sunday Times in January alleged that Johnson recommended Sharp as chairman just weeks after the latter was involved in Johnson’s attempt to arrange a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000 [$990,000].

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A parliamentary inquiry into the matter in February — by the same Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee that interviewed Sharp for the job — found that he had made “significant errors of judgement” when he didn’t declare his role in the facilitation of a loan to Johnson.

Sharp resigned after a report that set out the findings of an inquiry by Adam Heppinstall into the 2020/21 competition to appoint a new chair of the BBC board, was published on Friday. The report considered whether the procedures and practices applied during the appointment process were in accordance with the U.K.’s governance code for public appointments.

The report found that Sharp “failed to disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest to the panel which interviewed candidates and advised Ministers on who to appoint.”

Sharp, a banker and former chair of the Royal Academy of Arts, was appointed in January 2021 on the recommendation of Oliver Dowden, then DCMS secretary and Johnson.

Sharp resigned on Friday after an official report found that he breached the rules for public appointments. According to the report, there were two non-disclosures during the application process for the BBC chairman position: firstly, Sharp informed Johnson that he wanted to apply as chair before he officially made his application in November 2020, and secondly, Sharp told Johnson prior to being interviewed that he was going to introduce Johnson’s cousin Sam Blyth and the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, with Blyth suggesting he might be able to “assist [Johnson] with his personal finances.”

He will remain as interim chair until June.

The BBC board issued the following statement following Sharp’s resignation: “We accept and understand Richard’s decision to stand down. We want to put on record our thanks to Richard, who has been a valued and respected colleague, and a very effective Chairman of the BBC. The BBC Board believes that Richard Sharp is a person of integrity.

“Richard has been a real advocate for the BBC, its mission, and why the Corporation is a priceless asset for the country, at home and abroad. He has always had the impartiality of the BBC and a desire to see the organisation thrive at the forefront of his work as Chairman.”

The board noted that the U.K. government is “moving swiftly” to fill the position.

In a statement, Sharp said serving as chairman has been “an enormous privilege.”

“It is an incredible organization which has never mattered more than it does today, at home in the U.K. and around the world,” said Sharp. “I am very proud to have worked with the uniquely talented teams across the BBC. They are the best at what they do and I shall always be their champion.”

Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, added: “On behalf of the BBC Executive, I would like to thank Richard for his service to the BBC and the drive and intellect he brought to his time as Chairman. Working with him over the last two years has been rewarding and Richard has made a significant contribution to the transformation and success of the BBC.

“The focus for all of us at the BBC is continuing the hard work to ensure we deliver for audiences, both now and in the future,” added Davie.

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