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January 16, 2014updated 17 Jan 2014 2:03pm

Independent owners decline to comment on report that title is again up for sale

By Dominic Ponsford

The publishers of The Independent declined to comment this morning on a report that the title is again up for sale – nearly four years after it was sold by Independent News and Media to Alexander Lebedev.

The Lebedev media empire also includes the Evening Standard and the local TV station London Live, which is due to launch on Freeview at the end of March.

While the Evening Standard now turns a small profit, The Independent continues to be loss-making.

The Independent lost £16.6m in the year to September 2012 and £22.3m in the year to September 2011. Press Gazette understands that the Independent's cut-price sister title i does make money, albeit it with the benefit of content provided by the main paper.

Late last year Lebedev senior told The Guardian that his Russian businesses were not making enough money to fund his loss-making newspapers.

The Independent’s owner Evgeny Lebedev has stepped down from the board of Independent Print and, according to Roy Greenslade writing for The Guardian, one of the paper’s founders – Andreas Whittam Smith – is now chairman and is putting feelers out for a buyer.

In November, The Independent sold 67,710 copies, of which 43,492 were paid-for (at £1.40). The 20p sister title i had an average sale of 297,150, of which 64,270 were bulks.

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NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said that any sale must include commitments on the paper’s editorial independence.

She said: "Although it appears a sale is not imminent, the NUJ is concerned about the future of these important titles which, since they were founded in 1986, have had a strong reputation for campaigning journalism, opinion, comment and reviews. 

“If buyers are being sought, there must be guarantees on staffing levels and a commitment to the paper's editorial independence. The Independent has an important role in providing a plurality of news content in the UK's national newspaper market. It is essential that it can continue to do so."

Press Gazette understands that the belief among journalists on The Independent is that the title is up for sale.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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