Photograph: House of Commons/PA
A potentially damning report on how Richard Sharp was recommended for the post of BBC chairman by Boris Johnson is due to be released on Friday morning.
Sources say the report, by solicitor Adam Heppinstall KC, could prove uncomfortable reading for Sharp.
The former Conservative Party donor was nominated in 2021 and it later emerged that he had failed to disclose during his application that he had helped an acquaintance try to offer an undisclosed £800,000 personal loan guarantee for Johnson.
MPs criticized Sharp for “significant errors of judgement” in failing to disclose the potential conflict of interest, and the public appointees commissioner has launched an inquiry into the circumstances under which he was given the job.
Sources told the Guardian last week that the report was expected to be “very uncomfortable” for Sharp, potentially casting doubt on his future as BBC chairman.
However, the details remain limited. Under the protocol for such reports, where people are likely to have been criticized, people involved like Sharp will have been shown the finished document in advance, but with otherwise very limited circulation.
In February, Sharp faced an often uncomfortable grilling from MPs on the culture, media and sports committee, in which he revealed he had personally informed Johnson and Rishi Sunak that he wanted the job before applying.
Related: Richard Sharp ‘not fit’ for presidency, says former BBC chief
Sharp, who has been accused of exemplifying a “friends make friends” establishment culture, has agreed that he played a role in helping Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman who is a distant cousin of Johnson’s, assist the ‘then prime minister with his finances, but insisted his role was to ‘ensure due process was followed’.
Sharp told MPs Blyth was at a private dinner at his home in September 2020 when the Canadian said he’d read reports that Johnson was in “some trouble” and wanted to help. Sharp said he warned him of the ethical complexities of this.
Sharp was working in Downing Street on Covid projects at the time and told Johnson and Sunak of his intention to become BBC chairman. He told the committee: “I notified the prime minister and the chancellor that I wished to apply and I submitted my application in November.”
Sharp’s allies have fought a rearguard campaign to keep him in the job, arguing he is well placed to help the BBC through a difficult period in which its funding is under pressure and it needs to manage its relationship with the government carefully. .
Although Sharp has become a hate figure among many grassroots BBC journalists, the perception at management level is that he has sided with the BBC on many issues and acknowledges the financial pressure the company is under.
If Sharp were to step down, the government would immediately appoint one of the BBC’s other non-executive directors as interim chairman. These include broadcaster Muriel Gray and financier Damon Buffini.
Perhaps the most explosive option, however, would be to appoint Robbie Gibb, a board member who was formerly Theresa May’s communications chief and has been promoting a pro-Conservative agenda within the BBC.
Sunak’s government would then have the possibility of fixing a new permanent appointment with a new four-year term. This could mean that a future Labor government would have to contend with a Conservative-appointed president until 2027.