Aw, isn’t this nice.
The billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev is to buy London’s Evening Standard tomorrow, in a dramatic move that would see him become the first Russian oligarch to own a major British newspaper, MediaGuardian.co.uk can reveal.
Lebedev is poised to buy a controlling stake in the ailing title, following a year of secret negotiations with Lord Rothermere, its owner and the chairman of the Daily Mail General Trust.
Under the terms of the deal Lebedev will purchase 76% of the newspaper, with the Associated Newspapers group retaining 24%. His son Evgeny, who lives in London, is due to sign the deal with Daily Mail General Trust tomorrow. The agreement will make Lebedev the paper's controversial new proprietor.
It’s a logical move, really. After all, the KGB already controls all Russia’s media outlets. It needed to diversify overseas.
So will Mr Lebedev be interfering in British politics? Perish the thought. “My influence would be next to zero,” he declared. He promised an “absolutely” hands-off approach, and said it would be up to the Standard’s editor-in-chief and journalists to agree the paper’s editorial line. Absolutely. But now at least his friend Vlad will get a fair deal from the Russophobic British press.
Wonder how long it will be until he has a peeerage.