Feb 7, 2023
BBC Chairman Says He Was Just ‘Go-Between’ for Johnson Loan
(Bloomberg) -- Richard Sharp, the BBC’s chairman, has insisted he went through a rigorous appointment process and didn’t act improperly over his involvement in a loan for former prime minister Boris Johnson, which was being arranged at the same time.
Sharp told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that he regretted the furore triggered by revelations about conversations he had about a loan of about £800,000 ($961,000) for Johnson in 2020, while he was also applying to become chairman of the BBC. The role is decided by the government and signed off by the monarch.
Sharp said he acted “in good faith” and was just the “go between” for the loan. He told MPs he did not offer financial advice to Johnson but regretted the distraction caused by the matter to the BBC. “I wish we weren’t where we are now,” he said.
The Sunday Times reported in January that financial assistance was offered to Johnson by Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman who is also his cousin. Blyth approached Sharp — a long-time friend — about his interest in helping Johnson in September 2020.
Sharp passed on the information to Simon Case, head of the UK’s civil service, in December 2020 and said he took the matter no further. He applied to be chairman of the BBC in November 2020.
Before doing that, he informed Johnson he was going to apply for the BBC job and at another time told him about Blyth’s interest in helping him.
Read More: Ex-Goldman BBC Chief Set for Grilling Over Boris Johnson Loan
The former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who took on the BBC chairmanship in February 2021 won some support from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following the questioning. Sharp’s appointment to the BBC role appears to have been “conducted rigorously and transparently,” Sunak told reporters.
But it is right that the process is being reviewed, Sunak said. Lawyer Adam Heppinstall has been appointed to investigate Sharp’s appointment.
Sharp, who has donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party and was quizzed by MPs as part of his BBC appointment hearing in January 2021 about his political ties. This time, he was asked why he had helped Blyth contact Case about Johnson’s personal finances and if he would act the same way again.
Sharp said he now realizes he could have told Blyth to find another route to Case. Asked if he thought that would have been better, Sharp said that “I think you can form your own judgment on that.”
--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.
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