1 of 3 | BBC Chairman Richard Sharp quit Friday after the publication of the report of an inquiry into whether he failed to declare a conflict of interest due to his relationship with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo courtesy of BBC
LONDON, April 28 (UPI) -- BBC Chairman Richard Sharp quit Friday after an inquiry into whether his role in trying to help then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson obtain a $1 million loan created a conflict of interest ahead of being hired by the publicly-funded corporation.
In his resignation statement, Sharp insisted that his failure to inform an interview panel about assisting Johnson with his finances was inadvertent and apologized, saying he was stepping down so as not to further distract from the work of the BBC.
"During my conversation with the cabinet secretary on Dec. 4, 2020, [about connecting Johnson with his financier friend Sam Blyth], 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.
Sharp added that he erred in his understanding that the recusal was "absolute."
"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," he said.
The inquiry by the Commissioner for Public Appointments found two conflicts of interest that Sharp kept quiet about during the hiring process.
The first was that he informed Johnson that he wished to apply to be Chair of the BBC Board, before he made his application in November 2020; and secondly, he informed Johnson that he was going to meet the cabinet secretary to try to introduce him to Blyth who had said that he might be able to assist Johnson with his personal finances.
The inquiry found that Sharp's failure to disclose these conflicts of interest to the panel which interviewed candidates and advised Ministers on who to appoint could give the impression that he was recommended for the job by Johnson because he had tried to connect him with Blyth.
The loan never materialized and Johnson resigned as prime minister in July 2022 for unconnected reasons.
Calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to establish a "truly independent and robust process" to replace Sharp, the Labor opposition's Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Lucy Powell said the breach had caused untold damage to the BBC's reputation and seriously undermined its independence as a result of the Conservatives' "sleaze and cronyism."
"From Owen Patterson to Dominic Raab, and now Richard Sharp, instead of doing what's best for the country, the PM was more interested in defending his old banking boss. The PM should have sacked him weeks ago. Instead, it took this investigation, called by Labor, to make him resign," Powell wrote.