Standard owner Lebedev set to buy Independent newspapers

LONDON - Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev, majority owner of the London Evening Standard, is understood to be in advanced talks to buy The Independent and Independent on Sunday.

Standard owner Lebedev sets sights on the Independent
Standard owner Lebedev sets sights on the Independent

Such a deal would hand control of two major national UK newspapers to Lebedev, in addition to his acquisition of a 75.1% stake in the Standard in January.

According to sources, senior executives from Independent News & Media (IN&M) have been in discussions with Lebedev's representatives over a possible sale, among several options. According to one source close to the situation, a nominal offer for the two titles has already been tabled and a deal could be finalised by the end of the month.

The two parties have been in discussions over a number of possible deals since the Independent moved into the same Derry Street offices as the London Evening Standard in May, according to sources.

It is thought negotiations with IN&M are so advanced that discussions have already been held over the new management structure for a combined entity.

One source said: "There have been a number of discussions between the two parties, one of which has been over the sale of the Independent and Independent on Sunday to Lebedev."

Denis O'Brien, a 26% shareholder in IN&M, has previously called for executives at the media group to offload the titles. Pre-tax profit at IN&M's UK operations slumped nearly 99% year on year in 2008 to just €200,000, following a drop in circulation and ad revenue.

But sources claim IN&M will not sell the titles until the group has resolved the refinancing of its €220m bond, which expires on 26 June.

A representative for Lebedev Holdings Ltd was unavailable for comment. IN&M and the London Evening Standard declined to comment. The Standard's former owner, Daily Mail & General Trust, which retains 24.9% ownership of the paper, was also unavailable for comment.

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