Why did BBC chairman Richard Sharp resign?

Richard Sharp, the chairman of the BBC quit Friday (April 28) after a report found he failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest over his role in arranging a loan more than two years ago for then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, AP reported.

Sharp’s resignation comes as he faced months of mounting pressure, not just about the circumstances of his appointment, but also regarding the running of Britain’s storied public broadcaster. A high-profile row with star presenter Gary Lineker over his tweets dominated headlines in Britain last month.

The BBC has faced allegations of conservative bias and Sharp’s conflict of interest with conservative party leader Boris Johnson only furthered that perception.

While tendering his resignation, Richard Sharp said that his continued presence “may well be a distraction from the corporation’s good work”, The Guardian reported.

Arranging credit for Boris Johnson

Richard Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker became BBC chairman in 2021. His appointment came weeks after he helped the UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson secure a £800,000 (roughly $1 million) line of credit from wealthy Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, AP reported. The meeting between Johnson and Blyth was arranged by Sharp, who also happens to be a Conservative Party donor.

The Guardian reported that the prime minister’s personal finances were in poor shape while he was in Downing Street, with an expensive divorce one of many financial stressors.

Sharp had been under pressure since February 2023 when a committee of lawmakers said he had made “significant errors of judgement” in failing to declare his involvement in the loan.

An investigation initiated by the UK’s public appointments watchdog, examined the way in which Sharp was selected by the government to chair the corporation in 2021. A report on the episode by senior lawyer Adam Heppinstall published Friday found Sharp “failed to disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest.” The report found Sharp did not reveal his role in the loan guarantee to the BBC appointments panel before he was appointed chairman in early 2021.

The report found that, while he had breached the government’s code for public appointments, that breach did not necessarily invalidate his appointment. Sharp said he believed the breach had been “inadvertent and not material”.

Sharp said he would remain in his BBC role until the end of June while the search for a successor takes place, AP reported.

Implications and reactions to Sharp’s resignation

Richard Sharp is the latest in a string of politicians and officials brought down through their association with Johnson, who became prime minister in 2019 and led Britain out of the European Union the following year. Johnson himself was forced to quit last year after a series of scandals over money, ethics and judgement became too much for his Conservative Party colleagues to bear.

Crucially, Sharp’s resignation spares the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, from having to decide whether to fire him. Sunak, a former banker, once worked under Sharp at Goldman Sachs. His reign thus far has been defined by his attempts to restore stability to Great Britain amidst the political and economic upheavals caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Opposition politicians accused the Conservative government of undermining the BBC’s impartiality, AP reported.

“This breach has caused untold damage to the reputation of the BBC and seriously undermined its independence as a result of the Conservatives’ sleaze and cronyism,” Labour Party culture spokeswoman Lucy Powell said.

How the BBC operates and allegations of conservative bias

BBC has been Britain’s public broadcaster for over a century and is funded by an annual £159 ($200) licence fee paid by all households with a television. It is overseen by a board that includes both BBC nominees and government appointees.

The public broadcaster has a duty to be impartial in its news coverage but has frequently been accused of bias, generally by members of the political opposition.

In March this year, it found itself at the centre of heated controversy when it suspended beloved presenter Gary Linekar regarding his tweets on immigration. While the corporation defended its decision citing its responsibility to be “politically neutral”, it was heavily criticised for curtailing free speech and exhibiting a “conservative bias”. Multiple other imminent BBC broadcasters also refused to appear on the BBC following Linekar’s suspension. His suspension was later revoked.

Linekar’s suspension took another dimension in context of the developing story about Sharp’s connections with Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party.

While Richard Sharp’s resignation was aimed at protecting the BBC from further criticism, the public broadcaster will continue to be under intense scrutiny as his successor is named in the coming months.


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]

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