The Chairman of the British Broadcasting Cooperation, Richard Sharp, has resigned following a report that he did not disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest during his appointment.
The report, which was published on Friday by Barrister Adam Heppinstall, was an enquiry whether he was transparent about his involvement in the facilitation of a loan to former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Following the outcome of the report, Sharp apologised, saying he “did not want to be a distraction for the BBC”.
It was reported that Sharp had failed to disclose two potential perceived conflicts of interest: first, by telling Johnson he wanted to apply for the BBC role before doing so; and second, by telling the PM he intended to set up a meeting between Mr Blyth and Mr Case.
The report noted that Sharp does not accept the first conclusion, but he has apologized for the second, calling the breach of public appointment rules “inadvertent and not material”.
He has previously accepted that he arranged a meeting between the country’s most senior civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, and Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Mr Johnson who had offered to provide financial assistance to the then PM in late 2020.
At the time of that meeting, Sharp, an ex-investment banker and Conservative Party donor, had already applied for the senior BBC job.
The investigation was set up by the Commissioner of Public Appointments to investigate claims which first appeared in the Sunday Times.
According to the report, “there is a risk of a perception that Mr Sharp was recommended for appointment” because he sought to assist the PM in a private financial matter “and/or that he influenced the former Prime Minister to recommend him by informing him of his application before he submitted it”.
The report, however, did not make a judgement “on whether Mr Sharp had any intention of seeking to influence the former Prime Minister in this manner”.
Confirming his resignation on Friday morning, Sharp said the report found “that while I did breach the governance code for public appointments, he (Heppinstall) states that a breach does not necessarily invalidate an appointment”.
Sharp insisted that 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 Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Sam Blyth – a businessman who was offering the then PM financial help – to the appointments panel during the scrutiny process ahead of him taking up the senior role.
He said not doing so was an “oversight” and apologised for it.
In a statement, Sharp said he did not want to be a “distraction”, adding that it had been an honour to chair the BBC.
He will remain in post until June until a successor is appointed.
Sharp’s position came under further scrutiny in March following Gary Lineker’s suspension over a tweet criticising government asylum policy, a decision which triggered a wider row about BBC impartiality.
Critics of the British public service broadcaster’s handling of the issue contrasted Lineker’s suspension with how allegations against Sharp were dealt with, pointing out the chairman was able to remain in post despite ongoing investigations.
Following Sharp’s resignation, the Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, in a statement said, “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.”