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January 21, 2009

Alexander Lebedev buys 75% stake in Evening Standard

By Dominic Ponsford

Daily Mail and General Trust has announced the sale of a 75.1 per cent stake in the Evening Standard to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

The sale price was a ‘nominal sum’– believed to be £1 – and the buyer was Evening Press Ltd, which is owned by former KGB agent Lebedev and his 28-year-old son Evgeny.

A new company called Evening Standard Ltd will be established which will own the paper – and in which DMGT will keep a minority stake of 24.9 per cent.

DMGT’s national newspaper division Associated Newspapers will continue to print and distribute the Standard ‘for an initial period’with an option to extend that arrangement.

The Standard has been loss-making for some years and is believed to lose between £10m and £20m a year.

Paid-for circulation has been plunging particularly sharply in recent years in the face of competition from News International-owned free newspaper thelondonpaper and from its own free spin-off – London Lite.

Lebedev, along with Mikhail Gorbachev, is a major shareholder in opposition Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

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He has said he will establish a new editorial committee to ‘safeguard the principle of editorial independence’at the Standard.

The chairman of the board of Evening Standard Ltd will be Alexander Lebedev. Justin Byam Shaw, an adviser to Lebedev Holdings, will be deputy chairman and Evgeny Lebedev will be senior executive director.

Completion of the sale is not expected to take place until next month – following an ’employee consultation process”.

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