Exclusive: Rishi Sunak's ex-boss at Goldman Sachs now a surprise candidate for BBC chairman

Christopher Hope
·3-min read
Richard Sharp, who was a member of the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee from 2014 until last year, is very well connected to both the Prime Minister and Mr Sunak - PA/PA
Richard Sharp, who was a member of the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee from 2014 until last year, is very well connected to both the Prime Minister and Mr Sunak - PA/PA

A multi-millionaire former Conservative donor who was Rishi Sunak's boss at Goldman Sachs has emerged as a surprise contender to be chairman of the BBC, The Telegraph can disclose.

Richard Sharp, who spent more than two decades at the Wall Street banking giant and has been an informal adviser on Covid-19 to Mr Sunak since April, is understood to be applying for the £160,000 a year job.

The news came as George Osborne ruled himself out of the job. A source close to the former Conservative Chancellor said he had not been able to make the four-day-a-week role work with his other jobs.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is understood to be very keen to appoint a Conservative to the role to counter a perceived left-wing bias at the corporation.

Ministers increased the chairman's salary to £160,000 a year for the part-time role to encourage a wider range of candidates when the job advert was posted online earlier this month.

The highest paid BBC stars in 2020
The highest paid BBC stars in 2020

Mr Sharp, who was a member of the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee from 2014 until last year, is very well connected to both Mr Johnson and to Mr Sunak.

Mr Sharp was hired by Mr Sunak as an unpaid adviser to the Chancellor in April this year "to provide expert advice on the economic and financial response to Covid-19".

He advised Mr Johnson on economic policy when the Prime Minister was Mayor of London as a member of Mr Johnson's economic advisory council in City Hall.

Mr Sunak worked for Mr Sharp prior to the future chancellor's departure from Goldman Sachs in 2004.

Mr Sunak also has impeccable Conservative credentials, sitting on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, a thinktank founded by Margaret Thatcher to develop social market economic policies in the mid-1970s.

He is understood to have a personal fortune of more than £100 milllion and reportedly has given hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative party, attending a fundraising dinner in 2013.

A profile of Mr Sharp, 64, earlier this year described him as having "a reputation as a sharp, independent thinker and a safe pair of hands".

See below for the highlights of a September 2019 report into the BBC employee composition

Ofcom report | BBC too 'middle-class, white and London centric'
Ofcom report | BBC too 'middle-class, white and London centric'

Mr Sharp declined to comment when approached by the Telegraph. A source confirmed that he was likely to apply for the job. He stopped donating to the Tories when he joined the Bank of England.

A Treasury spokesman said Mr Sharp's position with the Chancellor was not a public appointment, adding: "This is a short-term advisory role through a direct ministerial appointment in line with Cabinet Office guidance."

The winning candidate is a Government appointment.

Number 10 declined to comment.

Outgoing BBC chairman Sir David Clement is due to stand down early next year. A job advert posted online says the Government is looking for "an outstanding individual with demonstrable leadership skills and a passion for the media and public broadcasting, to represent the public interest in the BBC and maintain the Corporation’s independence". 

Applications close on November 11 and a shortlist will be drawn up on November 16. Final interviews are in late November or early December, with the successful candidate taking up their post in February.

The job advert also states that "all reasonable and properly documented expenses incurred in performing the duties of these roles will be reimbursed in accordance with BBC’s expenses policy".