BBC chairman Richard Sharp helped to arrange a loan guarantee for Boris Johnson just weeks before the then-U.K. prime minister recommended Sharp for his current role at the British public broadcaster, The Sunday Times reported.
It said that the former Goldman Sachs banker Sharp, 66, who has also been a donor to Johnson’s Conservative Party, was involved in arranging 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 recruitment process.
Sharp said he “simply connected” people, so there was no conflict of interest. A Johnson representative, cited by the BBC, said that he did not receive financial advice from Sharp.
The U.K. opposition is now 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 got involved in the issues in November 2020 after a London dinner with old friend and multimillionaire Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman who is also a distant cousin of Johnson. The paper said Blyth raised the idea of acting as guarantor and asked Sharp for advice on how to proceed. Sharp agreed to help and discussed the matter with Simon Case, the head of the British civil service and cabinet secretary. According to the Times, Sharp, Blyth and Johnson also had dinner before the loan was finalized, but they deny the then-prime minister’s finances were discussed back then.
Johnson’s government unveiled Sharp as its choice for the role of BBC chair, whose duties include heading up 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.
Sharp said in a statement: “There is not a conflict when I simply connected, at his request, Mr. Blyth with the cabinet secretary and had no further involvement whatsoever.”