BBC Head Honcho in Pearson Shares Controversy

05 May 2003

BBC director general Grey Dyke either hasn’t heard of Caesar’s Wife or has a bad memory.

Arguably the most powerful figure in world public service broadcasting, Dyke, a former chief executive of Pearson Television, still hold shares in his former employer despite an implicit understanding with the BBC’s board of governors that he would divest himself of his substantial media shareholdings after taking up his post in January 2000.

Dyke, a one-time TV journalist, became a multimillionaire after the strongly resisted takeover of London Weekend Television by Granada in 1994. Among his several LWT colleagues prospering similarly were recently retired BBC chairman Christopher Bland and New Labour political maverick Peter Mandelson.

Despite the ‘understanding’ as to his media holdings, it was not until a press-stirred furore that Dyke was forced to sell a £6 million stake in Granada, shares in Pearson to the value of £801,750, and a tranche of stock in Carlton Communications, Trinity Mirror, United News & Media and Manchester United soccer club – now a media entity in its own right.

A clean sweep? Not quite. Days after selling this assets cache, it came to light that Dyke had “forgotten” a stake valued at £175,000 which, in contrition at his memory lapse, he placed into a trust for sale in 2001, the profits donated to charity.

So, now, a clean sweep? Regrettably, still not quite. Two years on – last Thursday to be precise – it emerged that the amnesiac director general had again overlooked a “modest” and unquantified block of shares in Pearson.

In those measured, confidence-inspiring English tones for which the BBC is globally famed, a spokesman explained: “Greg Dyke had a series of shares in a scheme which had been released at different times. Since the sale in 2001, Mr Dyke had received another tranche of shares which had been registered in the BBC's Declaration of Personal Interests form.

“While Pearson remains a company that must be registered, it has now divested [itself] of its TV production business, so it is no longer a requirement that these shares be sold.”

In January one of Dyke’s lieutenants, Michael Stevenson, a senior BBC education executive, fell on his sword after taking the rap in an internal inquiry into the way the corporation handled a controversial bid for its £150m digital curriculum project. This would have used public funds to deliver internet educational materials to schools.

According to The Guardian [02-May-03], Stevenson’s sin was to have discussed the project with none other than … Pearson. As the newspaper took pains to point out: “There is no suggestion that Mr Dyke had anything to do with the conversations.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff