THE chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp, has resigned following the publication of a report which found he had broken the corporation's code on public appointments. 

The report, written by Adam Heppinstall KC, was ordered after it emerged that Sharp played a role in facilitating an £800,000 loan guarantee for then prime minister Boris Johnson before being recommended for the influential role overseeing the public broadcaster’s independence.

Sharp said he was quitting as BBC chairman to “prioritise the interests” of the broadcaster after the report he breached the governance code for public appointments.

In a statement, he said: “Mr Heppinstall’s view is that while I did breach the governance code for public appointments, he states that a breach does not necessarily invalidate an appointment.

“Indeed, I have always maintained the breach was inadvertent and not material, which the facts he lays out substantiate. The Secretary of State has consulted with the BBC Board who support that view.

“Nevertheless, I have decided that it is right to prioritise the interests of the BBC.

“I feel that this matter may well be a distraction from the Corporation’s good work were I to remain in post until the end of my term.

“I have therefore this morning resigned as BBC Chair to the Secretary of State, and to the Board.”

The BBC board issued the following statement: “We accept and understand Richard’s decision to stand down.

"We want to put on record our thanks to Richard, who has been a valued and respected colleague, and a very effective Chairman of the BBC. The BBC Board believes that Richard Sharp is a person of integrity.

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“Richard has been a real advocate for the BBC, its mission, and why the Corporation is a priceless asset for the country, at home and abroad. He has always had the impartiality of the BBC and a desire to see the organisation thrive at the forefront of his work as Chairman.

“We understand that the UK Government is moving swiftly to begin the process of appointing a new Chairman of the BBC, in line with the terms of the BBC’s Charter.”

Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, said Sharp had made a "significant contribution" to the success of the BBC. 

“On behalf of the BBC Executive," he said. 

"I would like to thank Richard for his service to the BBC and the drive and intellect he brought to his time as Chairman. Working with him over the last two years has been rewarding and Richard has made a significant contribution to the transformation and success of the BBC.

"The focus for all of us at the BBC is continuing the hard work to ensure we deliver for audiences, both now and in the future."

Sharp has agreed to remain as chairman until the end of June while the process to appoint his successor is undertaken. 

It comes after months of controversy surrounding Sharp and the investigation. 

In January, the man initially charged with leading the process - William Shawcross - dropped out after it was revealed that he, too, had extremely close ties with Downing Street (his daughter heads up Rishi Sunak's policy unit). 

He also claimed to have “met Mr Sharp on previous occasions”.

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In a letter to Sharp, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said that he his “held in high regard” by the BBC board but added that “I understand and respect your decision to stand down”.

“You have clearly demonstrated your commitment to public service and I especially applaud the work you did during the pandemic,” she said.

“Your decision to step down in the wider interests of the corporation is further testament to that commitment.

“Thank you, once again, for your service and I wish you well for the future. I am sure there will be further opportunities for you to make a significant contribution to public life.

The SNP's Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman MP called on Rishi Sunak to ensure the next chairman was not a major donor to the Conservative Party. 

She said: “This has been a sorry saga for the BBC and has done untold damage to its reputation. Boris Johnson knew about his financial dealings with Richard Sharp before he recommended his appointment as the BBC’s chair.

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“It is entirely wrong for people like Richard Sharp, who are big donors to the Tory party to be rewarded with prime public service jobs. The Tories are rotten from top to bottom with sleaze.

“Rishi Sunak must now act to protect the future of the BBC and launch an independent inquiry into the behaviour of Boris Johnson in appointing Richard Sharp. He needs to get to the bottom of what influence Boris Johnson had on the appointment. Sunak should also make a promise that the next chair will not be someone who is a major donor to the Tories.

“There’s still questions for Sunak to answer on the BBC as the current Director-General is a former Tory candidate and Robbie Gibb, who sits on the BBC’s board, was a spin doctor for the Tories.

“This is another demonstration of how this Tory government and sleaze go hand-in-hand and the only way for the people of Scotland to escape from it is with independence.”