Richard Sharp QUITS as BBC chairman

Richard Sharp QUITS as BBC chairman after conceding report found he breached rules for public appointments

Richard Sharp resigned as BBC chairman today after conceding a report found he breached the governance code for public appointments.

Mr Sharp announced he will stand down at the end of June to avoid being a ‘distraction’ to the corporation following a review by Adam Heppinstall KC into his appointment.

The probe was ordered after it emerged he played a role in facilitating an £800,000 loan guarantee for then-PM Boris Johnson before being recommended for the role overseeing the public broadcaster’s independence.

The report found Mr Sharp had told Mr Johnson he wanted to be BBC chair before applying in November 2020. 

He also apologised for not telling the appointments panel that he had spoken to the Cabinet Secretary and offered to make an introduction to an individual who had suggested they could ‘assist’ Mr Johnson with his ‘personal finances’.

The review did not challenge Mr Sharp’s insistence that the breach was ‘inadvertent’, but found both matters amounted to a breach of the Governance Code.

Richard Sharp has quit as BBC chairman and will leave at the end of June

In a statement, he said: ‘Mr Heppinstall’s view is that while I did breach the governance code for public appointments, he states 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.

‘I have therefore this morning resigned as BBC Chair to the Secretary of State, and to the Board.’

Many of his own staff believed the controversial circumstances surrounding his appointment made it impossible for him to continue.

Mr Sharp has denied that he was involved in helping to arrange any loan.

As a result of the controversy, the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments appointed Mr Heppinstall to look into the appointment process that led to Mr Sharp getting the top job.

Mr Sharp said today: ‘During my conversation with the Cabinet Secretary on December 4 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.’

Mr Sharp said he will remain in the role until the end of June while the search for a successor takes place.

He said: ‘It was proposed to me that I stay on as chair until the end of June while the process to appoint my successor is undertaken, and I will of course do that in the interests of the corporation’s stability and continuity.

‘When I sought in December 2020 to introduce the Cabinet Secretary to Mr Blyth, I did so in good faith. I did so with the best of intentions.

‘I did so with the sole purpose of ensuring that all relevant rules were being followed. I am pleased that Mr Heppinstall supports the fact that my involvement in these matters was accordingly ‘very limited’.

‘He states that he 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.’

‘For more than two years I have seen the beating heart of the BBC up close,’ Mr Sharp said in a statement.

‘For all its complexities, successes, and occasional failings, the BBC is an incredible, dynamic and world-beating creative force, unmatched anywhere. As chair, I have acted at all times in the public interest and for the betterment of the BBC.

‘I am proud to have fought for the recent return of Government funding for the World Service. I have been active in commissioning independent thematic reviews of BBC coverage on touchstone issues. And I have championed the importance of the BBC as a well-funded and impartial public service broadcaster.

‘To chair this incredible organisation has been an honour. The BBC’s contribution to our national life is immense, its people are hardworking and brilliant, and preserving and enhancing it matters.’

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