Patten plugged own headhunting firm in job search advice to senior BBC executive
23:11 GMT, 23 December 2012
Lord Patten has admitted he recommended his own headhunting company to a senior BBC executive when she was passed over for the post of director-general.
The 110,000-a-year BBC Trust Chairman said he mentioned Russell Reynolds Associates, a recruitment firm where he has a paid role as a non-executive director, to Caroline Thomson during a meeting about her future – six weeks before she was made redundant.
Last night, he denied that the recommendation constituted a conflict of interest or that he made any ‘decision’ about her departure.
Lord Patten, left, has admitted he recommended his own headhunting company to senior BBC executive Caroline Thomson, right, weeks before she was made redundant
The Tory peer is not supposed to be involved in the appointment or departure of any BBC employees other than the director-general.
Miss Thomson, the former chief operating
officer and de facto deputy to former director-general Mark Thompson,
had expected to serve part of her 12-month notice period after the
arrival of newly appointed director-general George Entwistle in
September. In the event, she departed swiftly after Mr Entwistle took
over but received a highly controversial 670,000 severance package.
Caroline departed the BBC swiftly after George Entwistle, pictured, took over as director-general
The deal prompted fury at Westminster and last week MPs on the Public Accounts Committee complained that the BBC had a ‘cavalier’ attitude to licence fee payers’ money when it came to negotiating pay-offs for senior staff.
Now sources close to Miss Thomson have revealed that during a meeting with Lord Patten he made it clear that he expected her to leave quickly and asked how he could help her find a new role.
Miss Thomson reportedly told Lord Patten that Russell Reynolds had approached her on July 4 – within an hour of the announcement that she had lost out on the director-general post to Mr Entwistle.
Lord Patten said he does not receive financial rewards for recommendations.
He has already faced calls to resign after the PAC attacked his use of public money when Mr Entwistle was given a full year’s salary – 450,000 – after he left a mere 54 days into the job.
Last night a BBC Trust spokesman said: ‘The Trust did not make any decision about Caroline Thomson’s departure from the BBC.
‘Lord Patten saw her to discuss jobs she might do after her BBC career. He thought this would be helpful. They discussed several possible posts.
‘He told her that he would write references for her if she wanted, and he also said that she might approach executive search companies.
‘He mentioned two or three including Russell Reynolds Associates. He did not approach Russell Reynolds Associates himself and he is not paid for suggesting possible candidates to them.’
Mrs Thomson told The Sunday Times: ‘I won’t comment on private conversations with Lord Patten but I will say that I was very upset about the way the PAC characterised my departure as if the timing was of my choosing.’