Speculation over the top contenders for the BBC chairmanship has been rife in recent weeks, with a string of well-known names entering (and exiting) the fray.
But the race was this week thrown wide open after it emerged a relatively unknown candidate had emerged as the new frontrunner
Richard Sharp, a multi-millionaire former Tory party donor and Rishi Sunak’s former boss, is now leading the pack, according to multiple reports.
But who is Sharp and could he clinch the £160,000-a-year job?
While the BBC chairman has no direct influence on programming, the appointment has been widely seen as political.
The public service broadcaster is facing a plethora of challenges, including a decline in audiences, calls for the licence fee to be axed and accusations of bias.
Downing Street had been lining up former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore — a vocal critic of the BBC — though he subsequently ruled himself out of the race.
But Sharp is certainly not short of Tory credentials. The multi-millionaire has been a long term supporter of the Conservative Party, forking out £416,000 in donations.
He also has close ties to the government, and since April has held an informal role as an adviser to chancellor Rishi Sunak on Covid-19.
Prior to that, he was a member of Boris Johnson’s economic advisory council in City Hall when he was mayor of London.
To top it off, Sharp sits on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, the think tank founded by Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s.
Sharp also has a stellar track record in the City, holding a number of senior positions as a banker.
The would-be BBC chair started his career at JP Morgan, where he served for six years in both the commercial bank and the investment bank.
He spent more than two decades at Wall Street banking giant Goldman Sachs, where he was boss to Sunak prior to the future chancellor’s departure in 2004.
In 2013 Sharp was appointed to join the Bank of England’s financial policy committee, which monitors potential risks to the UK’s financial system.
Among other entries on a jam-packed CV, Sharp also served as chairman of lobbying and PR group Huntsworth.
‘Safe pair of hands’
It’s not all politics and finance, though, and Sharp has reportedly established a reputation as a culture lover.
He served as chairman of the Royal Academy of Arts trust, which manages funds given to the iconic Piccadilly arts institution.
Other cultural pursuits include co-founding inner city charity London Music Masters and serving as a director on the Olympic Legacy Board.
Sharp is also said to have been key in persuading Sunak to pull together a more generous package for arts and heritage organisations.
The 64-year-old is said to be a keen sports fan, while The Telegraph cited a profile that described him as having “a reputation as a sharp, independent thinker and a safe pair of hands”.