BBC chairman resigns after Boris Johnson loan guarantee investigation

Richard Sharp will stand down at the end of June after an independent probe found he breached the corporation's rules on governance.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp resigns following investigation into to Boris Johnson loan guarantee BBC / STV News

Richard Sharp has resigned as BBC chairman after being found to have broken the rules by failing to disclose he played a role in getting Boris Johnson an £800,000 loan guarantee.

Adam Heppinstall KC’s review found the former Tory donor twice breached the code governing public appointments, risking the perception he was not independent from the former prime minister.

Mr Sharp spared forcing Rishi Sunak to decide on his fate by announcing he will stand down at the end of June as the barrister’s report was published on Friday morning.

The review said Mr Sharp risked a perception that he was recommended for the role because he assisted Johnson “in a private financial matter”.

Mr Hepinstall also said there was the risk it would be perceived that he influenced Johnson to recommend him by telling him of his application before submitting it.

Failing to disclose both issues, which he said create a risk of being seen as not independent from Downing Street, caused breaches of the governance code for public appointments.

In his resignation statement, Mr Sharp insisted that his breach of the rules was “inadvertent and not material”.

“Nevertheless, I have decided that it is right to prioritise the interests of the BBC,” he added.

“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.”

The review was ordered after it emerged he introduced his friend Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson who wanted to help him with his financial troubles, to the Cabinet Office ahead of being recommended by the Government to the role.

BBC director-general Tim Davie thanked Mr Sharp 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,” Mr Davie said.

“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.”

In a letter to Mr Sharp, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said that he his “held in high regard” by the BBC board but added that “I understand and respect your decision to stand down”.

“You have clearly demonstrated your commitment to public service and I especially applaud the work you did during the pandemic,” she said.

“Your decision to step down in the wider interests of the corporation is further testament to that commitment.”

She accepted the decision that he should remain in post until the next board meeting on June 27 when a temporary replacement will be appointed.

Sunak said he has not spoken to former BBC chairman Richard Sharp following his resignation at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow.

He was unable to guarantee a non-political figure would replace him.

There’s an appointments process that happens for those appointments,” he said.

“I’m not going to prejudge that.”

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