‘Russian billionaire in bid to buy British paper’

January 9th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 9 (IANS) A Russian billionaire and former KGB agent’s approach to buy the Evening Standard, London’s traditional daily, has been rebuffed by its owners, according to media reports Friday.Viscount Rothermere, the controlling shareholder of the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), rebuffed an approach by Alexander Lebedev, former first director of the Soviet spy agency KGB, who made his fortune from banking, the Times reported.

Lebedev is reported to have shown an interest in buying the loss-making title last year but is thought not to have put forward a formal offer, and discussions have lapsed. Rothermere was understood to be against a sale, the paper added.

The Evening Standard, which is more than 150 years old, has struggled to compete against rival papers in recent years, in particular two free eveningers - London Lite, published by DMGT, and thelondonpaper, published by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, the parent company of The Times.

DMGT has not spelt out the amount it loses, but its annual deficit is less than 10 million pounds, the Times said.

Lebedev, who is close to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, was ranked 39th on the Forbes list of Russia’s top 100 billionaires before the credit crunch.

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