Richard Sharp resigns as BBC chairman following ‘cash for Boris’ report

Richard Sharp has resigned as chair of the BBC following the publication of the report into the circumstances surrounding his appointment.

It comes following months of tension over the way he was appointed, with The Sunday Times revealing earlier this year he helped to facilitate Boris Johnson getting an £800,000 loan during the selection process.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Mr Sharp insisted that the breach of the rules was “inadvertent”, but that he is leaving to limit any damage to the BBC as an organisation.

Mr Sharp had previously denied facilitating the loan, although he accepted setting up a meeting between the head of the civil service and millionaire Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson’s who had offered to provide him financial assistance in late 2020.

Mr Sharp has now said that when he introduced businessman Sam Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in December 2020, he did so “in good faith” and with “the best of intentions”.

“I did so with the sole purpose of ensuring that all relevant rules were being followed”, he added.

Commenting on his conversation with Mr Case, he said: “I reminded him of the fact that I was in the BBC appointment 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”.

Mr Sharp, an ex-investment banker and Conservative party donor, had already applied to be BBC chairman at the time the meeting took place.

Following his appointment to the post of BBC chair overseeing the public broadcaster’s independence in 2021, the circumstances of Mr Sharp’s selection were called into question when reports around the loan surfaced in the Sunday Times in January. 

Since then, Mr Sharp had faced calls from opposition parties and former senior BBC figures to step down.

Speaking this morning, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said that Mr Sharp should resign as BBC chair if the report found he acted improperly.

Ms Haigh told Sky News: “If it is revealed that he has failed to declare the details of this loan arrangement properly or failed to be forthcoming in the process, then of course, he will have to go.”

She also pointed to a broader issue: “This whole affair has cast a great cloud over public trust in the BBC and the way appointments are made at the moment, and it’s been really concerning to see how the government has sat back and done very little about the potential breaches in the process and done nothing to help restore trust and faith in the impartiality of the BBC.”

She added: “We need to see the outcome of the report and we need to see it acted on accordingly.”

She said that the case raises “wider issues” about how the government and the Conservative party have interacted with the BBC.