Independent report concludes Sharp breached public appointment governance rules

Richard Sharp

BBC chair Richard Sharp has resigned after an independent report into his appointment that found he “failed to disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest”

The Adam Heppinstall KC-led investigation concluded that Sharp had mishandled communications around his involvement in securing an £800,000 loan to former prime minister Boris Johnson.

The report said that “the [interview] panel may have concluded that no conflict arose, but [Sharp] did not put them in a position where they were able to form that judgement. It is that disabling of a key part of the system which constitutes a breach of the Governance Code.”

In a statement Sharp said he resigned as the matter had become a “distraction” for the BBC.

He said: “Mr Heppinstall’s view is that while I did breach the governance code for public appointments, he states very clearly that a breach does not necessarily invalidate an appointment.

”Indeed, I have always maintained the breach was inadvertent and not material, which the facts he lays out substantiate. The Secretary of State has consulted with the BBC Board who support that view. 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.”

He went on: ”Being the chairman of the BBC has been an enormous privilege. It is an incredible organisation which has never mattered more than it does today, at home in the UK and around the world. 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.”


The BBC board added: “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.

“We understand that the UK Government is moving swiftly to begin the process of appointing a new chairman of the BBC, in line with the terms of the BBC’s Charter.”

Sharp had faced calls to resign, following a leak of the draft report last week, which showed “grim” conclusions for the chair.

The former Goldman Sachs banker was accused of not disclosing that he had helpe securing the six-figure loan facility for then PM Johnson through his relationship with businessman Sam Blyth, who is the guarantor for the loan.

Sharp has repeatedly stated that he was “not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee, and I did not arrange any financing”, telling BBC staff in January that he simply introduced Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case.

In his length statement today Sharp was keen to point out that Heppinstall, “is ‘happy to record’ that he has seen no evidence – and nor could he – to say I played any part whatsoever in the facilitation, arrangement, or financing of a loan for the former Prime Minister.”

“During my conversation with the Cabinet Secretary on December 4th, 2020, I reminded him of the fact that I was in the BBC appointments process. I believed, as a result of that conversation, that I had been removed from any conflict or perception of conflict. I understood this recusal to be absolute. This was my error.

“In my subsequent interview with the Appointments Panel I wish, with the benefit of hindsight, this potential perceived conflict of interest was something I had considered to mention. I would like once again to apologise for that oversight – inadvertent though it was – and for the distraction these events have caused the BBC.”

Tim Davie, the Director-General of the BBC, 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.”

The BBC Board has asked Richard to stay on as Chairman until the end of June while the process to appoint his successor is undertaken. Richard has agreed to do so in the interest of the Corporation’s stability and continuity.”