Boris Johnson has dismissed as “complete nonsense” allegations that the BBC chairman assisted him in obtaining an £800,000 loan while he was prime minister.
The former prime minister described the claims concerning Richard Sharp’s involvement as “yet another instance of the BBC vanishing into its own foundation.”
Mr. Johnson, who had just returned from a weekend trip to Ukraine, also asserted that Mr. Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me assure you of that”
In November and December of 2020, Mr. Sharp reportedly participated in discussions on how to get a loan guarantee for Mr. Johnson.
The discussions reportedly occurred just weeks before the then-prime minister proposed Mr. Sharp for the position of BBC chairman.
Today, Mr. Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and former advisor to current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor, demanded a review of his nomination as head of the broadcaster.
In a statement, he acknowledged that the controversy had created a “distraction” for the BBC, but he argued that he had been appointed BBC chairman “on merit.”
Boris Johnson dismissed as “complete nonsense” suggestions that the BBC chairman assisted him in securing an £800,000 loan during his time as prime minister.
In November and December of 2020, Richard Sharp reportedly participated in discussions regarding how to get a loan guarantee for Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson reportedly got a loan of up to £800,000 in late 2020, when he was experiencing financial difficulties due to divorce payments, child care expenses, and bills for the renovation of his Downing Street apartment.
Sam Blyth, a multimillionaire Canadian businessman and distant cousin of Mr. Johnson, reportedly proposed acting as the Prime Minister’s guarantee and contacted Mr. Sharp, an old friend, for guidance on the best course of action.
The newspaper reported that Mr. Sharp later discussed the problem with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, and that Mr. Johnson, Mr. Sharp, and Mr. Blyth had a private meal at Chequers prior to the loan being finalized.
Labour has demanded an investigation into Mr. Sharp’s eventual appointment as BBC chairman in January 2021, a position he reportedly applied for before to commencing discussions with Mr. Johnson over his loan.
When asked about the dispute this morning, Mr. Johnson told Sky News, “This is complete and utter nonsense.”
Let me simply say that Richard Sharp is a nice and wise man, but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal money. I can say that with total certainty.
This is yet another instance of the BBC vanishing into its own foundation.
This morning, Mr. Sunak was questioned about the reports during a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire.
The Prime Minister, who is now facing concerns regarding the financial troubles of Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, emphasized that Mr. Sharp through a “rigorous” and “independent” appointment procedure prior to becoming BBC chairman.
“Clearly, this appointment was made by one of my predecessors before I became prime minister,” Mr. Sunak stated.
“The process for appointing the chairman of the BBC is a rigorous, independent, two-step, transparent, and online-published one.”
Mr. Sharp’s appointment underwent the entire procedure.
However, Mr. Sharp himself has requested an investigation into potential conflicts of interest over his role in assisting Mr. Johnson obtain a loan.
Mr. Johnson demanded Mr. Sharp is completely ignorant of my personal finances, I can assure you of that with perfect certainty.
On a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire, Rishi Sunak stated that Mr. Sharp underwent a “rigorous” and “independent” appointment procedure before to becoming BBC chairman.
In a statement quoted by the BBC, Mr. Sharp recognized that “distractions of this nature are not welcome” and said he had asked the BBC board’s nominations committee to investigate.
He stated, “We face numerous challenges at the BBC, and I am aware that distractions such as this are not welcome.”
“Our job at the BBC is founded on confidence. Although the appointment of the BBC chairman is the sole responsibility of the government… Since I’ve joined the BBC, I wish to ensure that all applicable policies have been adhered to.
The BBC board’s nominations committee is responsible for assessing board members’ conflicts of interest on a regular basis.
According to the BBC, Mr. Sharp “has agreed with the board’s senior independent director that the committee will examine this at its upcoming meeting and, in the interest of transparency, publish its findings.”
Yesterday, Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary for Labour, wrote to William Shawcross, the commissioner for public appointments, requesting an investigation into Mr. Sharp’s appointment process.