Richard Sharp’s future as chairman of the BBC looks increasingly in doubt ahead of a potentially “damning” report into his appointment.
Henry Zeffman, Alex Farber www.thetimes.co.uk
The former Goldman Sachs banker was summoned earlier this month to see Adam Heppinstall KC, the barrister who is conducting an investigation into the appointment process on behalf of the Commons’ public appointments committee.
Heppinstall, who was asked to oversee the investigation in early February, is expected to publish his findings within the next few days, having already shared some of the material with Sharp.
One individual familiar with the content of the report said that the findings were “damning”, adding: “When it’s all laid out clearly, it exposes just how extraordinary the whole episode is.”
Rishi Sunak last month declined to say he had confidence in Sharp’s chairmanship, instead saying he was waiting for Heppinstall’s review to conclude.
Though Sharp was appointed BBC chairman under Boris Johnson’s government, he has known Sunak for many years too. Sharp is understood to have seen some of the report’s early findings, which have set out several discoveries “including some unwelcome elements”.
Sharp was Sunak’s boss when the future prime minister was a junior banker at Goldman Sachs. During the pandemic Sunak hired Sharp as an unpaid adviser on the government’s economic response.
A number of individuals who have previously criticised Sharp reiterated their concerns. The SNP MP John Nicolson, who was part of the cross-party select committee which accused Sharp of making “significant errors of judgment” in failing to declare his role in helping facilitate an £800,000 loan to Johnson, said he expected the report to be “grim”.
“Richard Sharp has clung on as BBC chair in desperate and unseemly fashion,” Nicolson said. “He should have resigned with a semblance of dignity after the Commons culture and media committee report. He must now go.”
Philippa Childs, head of the broadcasting union Bectu, added: “His position is untenable and his resignation is long overdue, no question. Richard Sharp’s presence as chairman continues to damage the BBC’s reputation on a daily basis.”