BT chief and former ITV boss approached for BBC chairman role

Philip Jansen
Headhunters have contacted Philip Jansen, who is due to step down from BT in the coming months - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

The departing chief executive of BT and former boss of ITV have been approached for the BBC chairman role as the Government tries to plug the gap at the top of the public service broadcaster.

Philip Jansen, who is due to step down from the telecoms giant in the coming months, has been contacted by headhunters for the top job.

The Telegraph has learnt Sir Peter Bazalgette, a veteran media executive who was chairman of ITV until last year, has also been contacted about the role, as has Mr Jansen’s predecessor at BT, Gavin Patterson.

Mr Jansen, whose involvement was first reported by The Times, announced in July he would step down from BT at an “appropriate moment” over the next 12 months.

But sources close to the telecoms boss suggested he was unlikely to take the job and was planning to take a break after leaving BT.

Sir Peter Bazalgette
Sir Peter Bazalgette, who served as ITV chairman until last year, has also been contacted about the role - Paul Grover

Headhunters at executive search firm Saxton Bampfylde are leading the search for a new BBC chairman to replace Richard Sharp.

Mr Sharp resigned in April after a report found he had broken Whitehall rules by failing to disclose his role in helping to secure an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson.

The four-year term will cover a crucial period for the public service broadcaster. The successful candidate will be tasked with overseeing the Charter renewal process, as well as discussions with the Government about the future of the licence fee funding model.

Other names linked with the £160,000-a-year position include Dawn Airey, who previously led Channel 5, and Sir Jeremy Darroch, the former boss of Sky.

However, the political controversy surrounding Mr Sharp’s departure and the public scrutiny around the BBC has already put some potential candidates off the job.

richard sharp
Political controversy surrounding Richard Sharp’s BBC departure has already put off some potential replacements - Geoff Pugh

“I just think the public scrutiny and intrusion that accompanies roles like this makes people cautious,” said one executive who has been approached by headhunters.

“People have seen it happen to Richard Sharp, but then also Bernard [Looney], Alison [Rose] and to some extent Philip [Jansen]. I’m not up for that.”

Analysts believe that the BBC may instead turn to its deputy chairman, Sir Damon Buffini, to take over given his commercial expertise and experience in dealing with the Treasury.

Claire Enders, of Enders Analysis, said Mr Buffini, a founding partner of private equity firm Permira, was “the man to beat”.

“He has always struck me as the obvious replacement and possibly the one whose experience of the BBC is most valuable to the future as it relies increasingly on commercial revenue to keep the whole show on the road,” she said.

Applications for the role closed on Monday. The Government will begin sifting through potential candidates on October 5 and interviews are expected to be conducted by mid-November.

Dame Elan Closs Stephens, a member of the BBC board, is serving as acting chair until a replacement is found.

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