BBC chairman Richard Sharp reportedly helped Boris Johnson secure a loan of £800,000 just weeks before he was recommended for the role by the then-prime minister.

The Sunday Times reports that Sharp – who has previously donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party – helped connect Johnson with Sam Blyth, a multimillionaire Canadian businessman and distant cousin of Johnson.

The paper reported that Sharp was involved in talks about helping to fund the prime minister’s lifestyle in November and December 2020.

By this stage, Sharp had already submitted his application to become the BBC’s chairman, a position ultimately appointed by the government.

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Sharp is said to have become involved after meeting Blyth, an old friend, for dinner at the businessman’s home in West London.

Blyth is said to have raised the idea of acting as the former PM’s guarantor for a loan and asked Sharp for advice.

The BBC chairman agreed to help and introduced Blyth to Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service shortly afterwards, the paper reported.

The three men had dinner at Chequers, the prime minister’s grace-and-favour home in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, according to The Sunday Times, where they ate chop suey and drank white wine. The paper reported that all denied discussing Johnson’s finances.

In late December, it was clear Sharp would be appointed as the next BBC chairman. The move was officially announced by then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden on January 6, 2021.

But before the move was formally announced, the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team wrote a formal letter telling Johnson to stop speaking with Sharp about his personal finances, citing the forthcoming BBC appointment.

The BBC chairman is required by its instituting royal charter to uphold its independence from the government and to oversee its overall direction.

The Sunday Times reports that Sharp did not disclose his involvement with the then-prime minister’s finances to the panel who interviewed him for the role. He reportedly told interviewers that the sums of money he had donated to the Conservatives were dwarfed by those he had donated to charity.

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For his part, Johnson did not disclose the BBC chairman’s involvement in funding his lifestyle – under pressure because of divorce payments, childcare costs and bills for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat – in his register of interests as either an MP or as a minister, the paper reported.

According to a source who spoke with the paper, Johnson told Sharp: “Let’s make the BBC great”.

The pair are reportedly fast friends, having gone on skiing holidays in the past.

At the time of the Chequers chop suey dinner, Sharp – a former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs banker – was an economics advisor to then-chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of a team working on the Covid-19 response.

Sharp was formerly a boss of the future Prime Minister while they worked at Goldman Sachs.

A BBC spokesman told The Sunday Times: “The BBC plays no role in the recruitment of the chair and any questions are a matter for the government.”

The paper reported Sharp as saying: “There is not a conflict when I simply connected, at his request, Mr Blyth with the cabinet secretary and had no further involvement whatsoever.”

A spokesman for Johnson told the paper: “This is rubbish. Richard Sharp has never given any financial advice to Boris Johnson, nor has Mr Johnson sought any financial advice from him. There has never been any remuneration or compensation to Mr Sharp from Boris Johnson for this or any other service.

“Mr Johnson did indeed have dinner with Mr Sharp, whom he has known for almost 20 years, and with his cousin. So what? Big deal. All Mr Johnson’s financial arrangements have been properly declared and registered on the advice of officials.”

The SNP's Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman said: "Reports by The Times, that Boris Johnson's favoured appointee as BBC chairman was involved in arranging an £800,000 loan facility for the Prime Minister reeks of Tory sleaze.

"The UK government must establish an independent inquiry to assess the circumstances of this loan, the propriety of the arrangement, the ethics of the appointment, and whether any rules were broken by Boris Johnson, the UK government or the BBC chairman.

"Many people will have serious concerns about the existence of this loan, the circumstances of arranging it, and the increasingly close relationship between the Tory government and senior management at the BBC. This murky arrangement stinks to high heaven.

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the public has a right to know what happened. With Westminster engulfed in one Tory sleaze scandal after another, many people in Scotland will conclude the whole system is rotten and only independence can offer the fresh start we need."