Boris Johnson today uttered ‘complete rubbish’ over claims the BBC chairman helped him secure an £800,000 loan when he was prime minister.
The former prime minister said reports of Richard Sharp’s involvement were “yet another example of the BBC disappearing into its own foundation”.
Mr Johnson, who has returned to London after a weekend trip to Ukraine, also insisted that Mr Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me tell you that with 100 per cent certainty”.
Mr Sharp was reportedly involved in talks to arrange a loan guarantee for Mr Johnson in November and December 2020.
The talks are said to have taken place just weeks before the then Prime Minister recommended Mr Sharp for the role as BBC chairman.
Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and former adviser to current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor, has today ordered a review of his appointment as head of broadcasting.
In a statement, he admitted the row had become a “distraction” for the BBC, but insisted he had been awarded the BBC presidency “on merit”.
Boris Johnson slams ‘complete rubbish’ over claims BBC chairman helped him secure £800,000 loan while prime minister
Richard Sharp reportedly involved in talks to arrange a loan guarantee for Mr Johnson in November and December 2020
The talks are said to have taken place just weeks before the then Prime Minister recommended Mr Sharp for the role as BBC chairman
Mr Johnson is believed to have taken out a loan of up to £800,000 in late 2020 at a time when he was facing financial difficulties with divorce payments, childcare costs and bills for the renovation of his Downing Street flat.
According to the Sunday Times, Sam Blyth, a multi-millionaire Canadian businessman and distant cousin of Mr Johnson, came up with the idea of acting as a surety bond for the Prime Minister and asked Mr Sharp, an old friend, for advice on how best to to go on.
The newspaper claimed that Mr Sharp later discussed the matter with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, while Mr Johnson, Mr Sharp and Mr Blyth all allegedly had private dinners at Checkers before the loan was completed.
Labor has called for an inquiry into Mr Sharp’s subsequent appointment as BBC chairman, a role he reportedly applied for before entering talks over Mr Johnson’s loan in January 2021.
Asked about the row this morning, Mr Johnson told Sky News: ‘This is a load of complete nonsense, absolute nonsense.
“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a good and wise man, but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances, let me tell you 100 percent, damn sure.
“This is another example of how the BBC is disappearing from its own foundation.”
Mr Sunak was also questioned about the reports this morning while visiting a hospital in Northamptonshire.
The prime minister, who is also facing questions about Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, stressed that Sharp went through a “rigorous” and “independent” appointment process before becoming BBC chairman.
“This appointment was clearly made by one of my predecessors before I became prime minister,” Sunak said.
“The nomination process itself for appointing the BBC chairman is a rigorous process, it is independent, there are two stages, it is transparent and it is published online.
“Mr. Sharp’s appointment went through that whole process.”
But Mr Sharp himself has asked for a control panel to investigate potential conflicts of interest over his role in helping Mr Johnson secure a loan.
Mr Johnson insisted that Mr Sharp ‘knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me tell you that with 100 per cent certainty’
Speaking on a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire, Rishi Sunak stressed that Mr Sharp went through a ‘rigorous’ and ‘independent’ appointment process before becoming BBC chairman
In a statement reported by the BBC, Mr Sharp acknowledged that ‘distractions like this are not welcome’ and said he had asked the BBC Board’s nomination committee to look into the matter.
“We have a lot of challenges at the BBC and I know these kinds of distractions are not welcome,” he said.
“Our work at the BBC is based on trust. Whilst the appointment of the BBC Chairman is solely a matter for the Government… I want to ensure that all applicable guidelines are followed within the BBC since joining.
‘The BBC Board’s Appointments Committee is responsible for regularly reviewing the conflicts of interest of board members.’
The BBC reported that Mr Sharp ‘has agreed with the senior independent director of the board that the committee will look into this at its next meeting and, in the interest of transparency, publish the conclusions’.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell wrote yesterday to William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, asking him to look into the nomination process for Mr Sharp.