London Evening Standard sold to ex-Soviet spy

January 21st, 2009 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 21 (IANS) Loss-making London newspaper the Evening Standard has been sold to Russian oligarch and former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev for a “nominal sum”, its current owners announced Wednesday.The Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) said London’s traditional eveninger has been bought by Evening Press, a company formed by Lebedev and his son Evgeny Lebedev and owned by Lebedev Holdings.

DMGT’s Associated Newspapers division is to retain a minority share of 24.9 percent in the new firm, called Evening Standard Ltd.

DMGT said the Evening Standard would establish a new editorial committee to “safeguard the principle of editorial independence”.

Lebedev said: “We are strong supporters of a free and independent press and we greatly admire the Evening Standard as an iconic publication with its pedigree of fine journalism and commentary.

“We are committed to strengthening the newspaper’s competitiveness and look forward to working with Associated, which will continue to be involved as a minority shareholder.”

The transaction is expected to take place in February following consultations with the Standard’s 400 staff.

DMGT chief executive Martin Morgan denied previous reports that it had consulted the government because of Lebedev’s background - he was posted to London allegedly as a KGB officer in the 1980s.

“We did not think that appropriate,” Morgan said.

“Mr. Lebedev has a very good record in newspaper ownership. Staff on their papers have reported that they do not interfere with ownership,” he added.

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