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BBC Chair Richard Sharp Denies Role in Loan for Boris Johnson Before Being Appointed

BBC chair Richard Sharp has denied allegations that he helped “arrange” a loan for the then U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020.

Appearing before a parliamentary enquiry convened by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee on Tuesday, Sharp said: “I’ve never given the [former] Prime Minister advice. He’s never sought it. I know nothing about his personal financial affairs.”

Under the BBC’s Royal Charter, which governs the broadcaster, the position of BBC Chair is appointed by the British monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for DCMS.

Sharp, a banker and former chair of the Royal Academy of Arts, was appointed in Jan. 2021 on the recommendation of Oliver Dowden, then DCMS secretary, and Boris Johnson, who was still Prime Minister at the time.

A report in U.K.’s The Sunday Times in January alleged that Johnson put forward the recommendation just weeks after Sharp “helped to arrange a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000 [$990,000 ]” for Johnson.

According to The Sunday Times, Sharp was drawn into Johnson’s finances while dining with the Prime Minister and businessman Sam Blyth, a friend and “distant cousin” of Johnson’s. The report stated that Blyth had agreed to act as a guarantor for the loan and wanted Sharp’s “advice on the best way forward.”

The dinner took place just two months before Sharp was publicly unveiled as the government’s “preferred candidate” for the role of BBC chair.

The Sunday Times said that in Dec. 2020 the government’s propriety and ethics team sent Johnson a letter instructing him to stop “seeking Sharp’s advice about his personal finances, given the forthcoming BBC appointment.”

The newspaper also claimed that Sharp did not disclose to the BBC or the House of Commons his involvement in the loan during the application process.

In a memo addressed to BBC staff following publication of the report, Sharp wrote: “I was not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee, and I did not arrange any financing. What I did do was to seek an introduction of Sam Blythe to the relevant official in Government.”

“I believe firmly that I was appointed on merit, which the Cabinet Office have also confirmed,” he added.

Johnson told Sky News at the time that the report was “a load of complete nonsense, absolute nonsense.”

“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a good and a wise man,” Johnson had said. “But he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances, I can tell you that for 100% ding dang sure.”

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