Lord Rothermere has insisted that his company, the Daily Mail and General Trust, remains committed to journalism and newspaper ownership, despite today selling the Evening Standard to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.
And DMGT revealed today that it plans to continue publishing the Evening Standard’s spin-off free edition London Lite – which has a daily circulation of 400,000 and competes against thelondonpaper.
The Rothermeres have owned the Standard since the third Viscount Rothermere bought it in 1980 and merged it with the Evening News.
Rothermere, who is chairman and controlling shareholder of DMGT, said: “We are very proud to have owned the Evening Standard. It has a long and distinguished history as one of the world’s great city newspapers, based on outstanding journalism.
“I believe that Alexander Lebedev shares my commitment to newspapers and will continue to invest in the Evening Standard. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that DMGT remains fully committed to journalism and newspaper ownership.”
New DMGT chief executive Martin Morgan said: “We believe that the agreement announced today is in the best interests of the staff and our shareholders. The investment planned by Mr Lebedev secures the future of the paper.
‘DMGT will retain a 24.9 per cent stake. We will continue to provide a range of support services to the paper but will not have a seat on the board or any involvement in its editorial policy.
‘DMGT will benefit from the reduction in losses and will continue to invest in the development of our newspapers and other businesses.”
Alexander Lebedev said: “The Lebedev family is delighted to be investing in the Evening Standard.
‘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 Standard’s new owners
Chairman of the board of new company Evening Standard Ltd Alexander Lebedev, 49, is the chairman of the board of Russian National Reserve Corporation, which is the majority shareholder in National Reserve Bank, one of Russia’s largest banks.
Through the National Reserve Bank, he owns 30 per cent of Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot, as well as shareholdings in Ilyushin Finance Co, Sberbank, Gazprom, and Unified Energy System.
The National Reserve Corporation also owns the National Mortgage Company and has interests in the textile, food, chemical, energy, telecommunications, transport, and tourism industries.
Together with Mikhail Gorbachev he owns 49 per cent of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta (the other 51 per cent is owned by the newspaper’s staff).
In December 2003 he was elected the lower chamber of the Russian parliament as a member of the Fair Russian (Socialist) party.
In September 2008, together with Mikhail Gorbachev, he announced plans to establish a new political party, the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, whose aims include campaigning for legal and economic reform, a stronger role for parliament, and the expansion of Russia’s independent media.
Senior executive director of the new company Evgeny Lebedev, 28, lives in London and is described as an ‘entrepreneur and philanthropist with interests in the restaurant, hotel, publishing, film and fashion industries”.
He has what is described as ‘a successful partnership with the Dazed Group”, which is said to be launching the magazine ‘Dazed & Confused’in Russia later this year.
Deputy chairman of Evening Standard Ltd Justin Byam Shaw, 49, is described as ‘a UK-based entrepreneur who has founded and sold a number of successful telecoms and media businesses”.
His first company, Legion Group, is said to have provided interactive voice media services in Europe, Australia and South Africa in joint ventures with newspaper newspaper companies, including Times Media Group, Fairfax and Associated Newspapers.
His current businesses include Gaming Media Group, Netplay plc and Harvest Media Group.