BBC Chairman slammed for allegedly assisting Boris Johnson in obtaining a loan guarantee

The British opposition is calling for an “urgent investigation,” while Richard Sharp says he “simply connected” people and a rep of the former U.K. prime minister says he did not receive financial advice from Sharp.

According to The Sunday Times, BBC chairman Richard Sharp assisted in arranging a loan guarantee for Boris Johnson just weeks before the then-U.K. prime minister nominated Sharp for his current position at the British public broadcaster.

It stated that Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Conservative Party donor, was involved in providing a guarantor for a loan of up to £800,000 ($990,000) for now ex-prime minister Johnson after he had reached the final stages of the BBC chair recruiting process.

BBC headquarters
BBC Headquarters

Sharp stated that he “merely connected” people and hence had no conflict of interest. According to a Johnson official reported by the BBC, he did not receive financial advice from Sharp. “The BBC plays a role in the recruitment of the chair, and any questions are a matter for the government.”  a BBC official said.

The U.K. opposition is calling for a probe. Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to the parliamentary commissioner for standards to ask for “an urgent investigation into the facts of this case,” the BBC reported.

According to the Sunday Times, Sharp became involved in the difficulties following a London dinner with an old friend and multimillionaire Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman who is also Johnson’s distant cousin. According to the publication, Blyth suggested serving as guarantor and sought Sharp for advice on how to proceed. Sharp agreed to assist and reviewed the situation with Simon Case, the British civil service’s head and cabinet secretary. Sharp, Blyth, and Johnson also had dinner before the loan was approved, according to the Times, but they deny discussing the then-prime minister’s finances at the time.

Sharp was announced as the government’s nominee for the post of BBC chair, which includes overseeing the broadcaster’s board, setting the BBC’s strategic direction, and upholding its independence, in January 2021. The Times also noted that candidates must declare any conflicts of interest.