(Sky News) Richard Sharp has resigned as chairman of the BBC after a report found he broke the rules by failing to disclose the role he played in helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan.
Adam Heppinstall KC’s review found the former Conservative donor twice breached the code governing public appointments, risking the perception he was not independent from the then-prime minister.
Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, has spared Prime Minister Rishi Sunak from being forced decide on his fate by announcing he will stand down from the influential role overseeing the public broadcaster’s independence at the end of June.
Following the publication of the report, Mr Sunak said he had not seen the report or spoken to Mr Sharp following his resignation.
The prime minister also told journalists: “When concerns are raised, it is right there is a proper process, an independent process that we don’t prejudge, we allow it to carry on, establish the facts of what happened, reach a conclusion.
“That has happened, Richard Sharp has resigned. But it is right that we do these things properly and professionally, I think most people will think that is the right thing to do.”
Asked if Mr Sharp’s replacement should be a non-political appointment, Mr Sunak said he was “focused on delivering for the British people”.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson remained tight-lipped when asked about Mr Sharp as he left his home this morning prior to the release of the report.
In his resignation statement, Mr Sharp insisted that his breach of the rules was “inadvertent and not material”.
“Nevertheless, I have decided that it is right to prioritise the interests of the BBC,” he added.
“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.”
Mr Sharp has said he will stay on until a replacement is found.
“To chair this incredible organisation has been an honour,” he added.
The BBC Board said this morning: “We accept and understand Richard’s decision to stand down.”
BBC director-general Tim Davie thanked Mr Sharp for his service and “the drive and intellect he brought to his time as chairman”.
Mr Sharp had been caught up in a row over his appointment into the role at the BBC since January, when it emerged he helped facilitate an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson – just weeks before the former prime minister appointed him.
He had introduced his friend Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Mr Johnson who wanted to help him with his financial troubles, to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case ahead of being recommended for the BBC role by the government.
An investigation into Mr Sharp’s appointment by the commissioner for public appointments was announced in January only for the commissioner, William Shawcross, to recuse himself from the process due to “contact” between himself and the BBC chairman.
Mr Heppinstall KC took over the probe.
This investigation was published this morning by the commissioner for public appointments.
It outlined how Mr Sharp told Mr Johnson he wanted to apply for the BBC chairman role in November 2020.
And it considered how he met Mr Case the following month regarding the introduction to Mr Blyth over the then-prime minister’s financial affairs.