Crypto investor and former chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp, has resigned from the British media corporation following an inquiry into the potential conflicts of interest that could arise from his role in securing Boris Johnson an £800,000 personal loan.
His appointment as BBC chair had previously been questioned due to Sharp’s cryptocurrency links to the sanctioned Russian oligarch Vladamir Potanin.
Known as the “Nickel King,” Potanin owns Atomyze, a blockchain company focused on trading metals for crypto tokens. Potanin also repurchased Rosbank last year, which ceremonially exchanged its own central bank digital currency equivalent of the ruble with Atomyze’s digital gold.
In 2019, Sharp was an investor of Atomyze through a Cayman Islands-listed company, ABCP GP Ltd. The former BBC chair was also Atomyze’s company director for two months. Swiss corporate filings reveal Rob Osborne, COO and CFO of Sharp’s personal investment office, still sits on the crypto firm’s board of directors.
Inquiry finds Richard Sharp breached code
The inquiry began after Sharp was reported to have helped Johnson arrange an £800,000 loan with Sharp’s distant cousin, Sam Blyth, over a series of dinners in 2020. The former PM soon after endorsed Sharp for the role of BBC chair, despite MPs describing Sharp as having “no editorial experience whatsoever.”
Friday’s inquiry found that “Mr. Richard Sharp failed to disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest to the Panel which interviewed candidates and advised Ministers on who to appoint.”
The two undisclosed breaches prior to his appointment involve Sharp stating to the former prime minister that he “wished to apply to be chair of the BBC board, before he made his application in November 2020,” and the personal loan recommendations he made in 2020.
The inquiry reads, “These matters gave rise to a potential perceived conflict of interest… There may well have been a risk of a perception that Mr. Sharp would not be independent from the former Prime Minister, if appointed.”
He will remain chairman until June when a successor is appointed.