BBC creative director Alan Yentob has resigned in the wake of the row over his involvement with the charity Kids Company.
The executive and Kids Company trustee released a statement in which he said that the problems with the company – and accusations he used his influence to pressure BBC staff covering the story – was too much of a “distraction”.
He said: “The BBC is going through particularly challenging times and I have come to believe that the speculation about Kids Company and the media coverage revolving around my role is proving a serious distraction.
“So I have spoken to Tony Hall and told him that I think it best that I step down from my senior management role as Creative Director at the end of this year and focus on programme making and TV production – including of course the Imagine Series. I will also continue supporting Christine Langan and her team as Chairman of BBC Films.
“I love the BBC and will continue to do everything I can to ensure that it thrives and fulfils the great expectations we all have of it.”
Tony Hall said in a statement: “Alan is a towering figure in television, the arts, and a creative force for good for Britain. He has served the BBC with distinction in a number of different executive roles – all of which have been characterised by his energy, creativity and commitment to public service. He has an extraordinary roll-call of achievement.
“For the record, BBC News considered whether Alan Yentob had influenced the BBC’s journalism on the reporting of Kids Company. They concluded that he did not. Despite that, I understand his reasons for stepping down as Creative Director. He has been thinking about this carefully for some time and we have discussed it privately on a number of occasions.
“I am pleased that Alan will be continuing his brilliant work as a programme maker at the BBC in the future.”
He joined the BBC in 1968 and has held many senior positions including controller of BBC2 and director of television.
Yentob, who chaired Kids Company for 18 years before he stepped down to become a trustee during its funding negotiations with the Government, had been accused of trying to interfere with the BBC’s coverage of the collapse of the charity.
Sources on Radio 4’s Today programme claimed that he accompanied the charity’s former chief executive Camilla Batmanghelidjh to the studios of the Radio 4 programme when she was interviewed earlier this year.
Yentob was not invited to the interview but was said to have stood at the studio which some journalists felt applied undue pressure on the programme makers and journalists.
A colourful figure in broadcasting circles, he was known for his bulging contacts book as well as his snappy Armani suits.
He earned £183,000 for his job as creative director and a further undisclosed sum for his work presenting Imagine. His total package is reputed to be around £330,000 and he is also understood to have one of the biggest pension pots at the BBC.
While some BBC colleagues and observers ridiculed him for his name-dropping as much as for his expensive power lunches, Yentob’s supporters have often pointed to the work he did behind the scenes.
He was friends with a number of big name stars and is understood to have used his influence to involve them in all areas of BBC production.
“A lot of the good Alan did for the BBC was never seen or made public,” a friend of the executive told RadioTimes.com
He was also able to use his contacts on his arts strand Imagine, which he will continue to make. However even this was the subject of some controversy and ridicule, with the programme earning the nickname “Al’s Pals” because of the number of his friends that he showcased on the show.
He was also a very recognisable public face of the BBC, frequently appearing on air during times of crisis such as the Savile affair. He was also thought to be the chief architect of a recent BBC initiative which published research on families who were deprived of BBC services and their responses.
However many BBC colleagues complained about the nebulous nature of his role. “What does he actually do?” was a frequent complaint about Yentob, whose fondness for lavish lunches earned him the sobriquet “Yum Yum Yentob” in addition to the more commonly used “Botney” which was pioneered by the satirical magazine Private Eye.