Boris Johnson has hired one of the most senior executives at broadcaster Sky to become his chief business adviser in Downing Street, charged with building stronger relationships with companies and industry groups.
Andrew Griffith is a former Conservative candidate who lent his £9.5m Westminster townhouse to the Johnson campaign during the race for the party leadership. He remained chief finance director and chief operating officer at Sky after its acquisition by Comcast last year.
His role will be to help Mr Johnson foster ties with the business world amid concerns from some executives about the new prime minister’s willingness to embrace a no-deal Brexit if he cannot come to an agreement with the EU before the October 31 deadline.
Mr Griffith will build a large business-focused team in Downing Street, according to a person close to his plans. The person added that Mr Griffith wanted to “give a voice to business at the top table” of policymaking, saying that he had the support of Mr Johnson in creating a more business friendly approach.
The former Rothschild investor banker joined Sky in 1999, and became finance chief for the group in 2008. He has a reputation for asking sharp, commercially minded questions among staff at Sky’s headquarters in Osterley, west London, and had been tipped as a potential successor to Jeremy Darroch as chief executive.
Mr Griffith was a key part of the team during the attempted takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox of Sky, when his son James Murdoch was chairman of the broadcaster, and had previously pushed its growth and M&A strategy during a turbulent period for media and telecoms consolidation.
He received about £17m after Sky was acquired by Comcast, which needed to buy out some of the stakes and share schemes held by Mr Griffith and other staff in the group.
Mr Griffith ran as a Tory parliamentary candidate for Corby in 2001 and 2005. He lost both times to Labour.
Some executives have been wary of Mr Johnson after he jokingly said “fuck business” last year in response to concerns about a hard Brexit. But in recent weeks he has been on a charm offensive in an effort to persuade corporate leaders that he will offer a pro-business, tax-cutting agenda.
Allan Leighton, chairman of Co-operative Group and former Sky board member, said that Mr Griffith would be “good news for the business community”.
“To have someone of Andrew’s calibre and business experience in No 10 will, I hope, create a positive ongoing relationship at this important time.”
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The appointment is expected to lead to the departure of William Vereker, the former UBS banker who has served as business envoy for Theresa May since 2018 and created a system of business councils featuring heads of many of the UK’s largest companies as well as entrepreneurs and members of business lobby groups.
Business groups welcomed the appointment of Mr Johnson on Tuesday, but called for immediate action to provide the certainty required by businesses to plan for the future.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said that business needed three things in the first 100 days: “A Brexit deal that unlocks confidence; clear signals the UK is open for business; and a truly pro-enterprise vision for our country.”
Adam Marshall, director-general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the message to Mr Johnson from business communities around the UK was simple: “The time for campaigning is over — and we need you to get down to business. Companies need to know, in concrete terms, what your government will do to avoid a messy, disorderly Brexit on the 31st of October.”