O’Donnell, who joined as deputy ad director for the Standard in 2008 after nine years at The Mail on Sunday, told Media Week: "We’ve had a year like no other year.
"We’ve come from almost the brink of death, back in Christmas 2008, into becoming, well not a successful brand yet, but we’ve certainly seen the road to success."
Speaking at last week’s sell-out Media Week Awards 2010, where the London Evening Standard won both the Grand Prix and Media Brand of the Year awards, O’Donnell was decidedly upbeat about the title’s future prospects.
"We’ve made some decisions which I think were right for the brand and right for the time.
"People have literally bought back into the Standard. The Standard has become part of London’s life again… Everybody now is trying to find their copy of the Standard."
The Evening Standard was losing more than £20m a year in 2008, and ad pages and circulation were being eaten into by London's free rivals London Lite and thelondonpaper.
The newspaper's turning point came on 21 January 2009, when Lebedev bought a 75.1% stake in the title and appointed Tatler's Geordie Greig as editor. Ten months later, the newspaper dropped its cover price and moved to a free model.
Last month, O’Donnell became group commercial head responsible for group stablemates The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and, most recently, daily spin-off ‘i’.
He now leads an 80-strong commercial publishing unit and remains bullish about the industry’s future in its current form.
"It’s interesting because everybody talks about ‘where’s the future of print?’"he said. "I think it’s pretty clear that it’s still in print."
While accepting that "it’s not a one-size-fits-all" situation, O’Donnell said last week’s widely celebrated launch of i was "born out of the belief that there was a gap in the market".
Identifying people who did not have time to read the traditional qualities and maybe wanted something "a little bit more than the frees that are going out there", he added: "We’re really hopeful that the paper will be successful for us - and I think early indications are hopefully that it will be - but also that it might encourage people to come back to press."
The London Evening Standard's readership is up 130% year on year to 1,349,000, while the paper has increased its profile of ABC1s by 4% to 76% and its median age has dropped by nine years to 37, according to various studies.
Significantly, cover-price revenue has reportedly been replaced by the 160% year-on-year rise in display ad revenue, with further growth identified in the classified, digital and B2C sectors.
At the awards, the newspaper was recognised as having a new story to tell advertisers and readers: that of a brand with quality content honed to a target audience that advertisers want to reach.