THE Independent newspapers were yesterday sold to Russian billionaire and former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev for £1.
Independent News and Media (INM) will pay Evening Standard owner Lebedev £9.25m over the next 10 months, effectively compensating him for taking the beleaguered newspapers off its hands.
Lebedev has set up a new vehicle, Independent Print Limited, which is expected to take control of the titles in May. His son Egeveny will chair the firm, while Lebedev will be a director.
Sources close to INM said the £9.25m it is paying to offload the titles is considerably less than the £30m it would have cost to close them. Together, they lost £12.4m last year as advertising revenues plummeted 33 per cent.
Gavin O’Reilly, chief executive of INM, said: “This is a most satisfactory and positive outcome for the titles, their staff and for INM’s shareholders.”
Lebedev has signed a new five-year printing deal with Trinity Mirror, with more favourable terms and a shorter contract than the existing one.
Sources close to the Russian billionaire said he could cut costs by printing the Evening Standard on the same presses when its contract with Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) runs out in two years.
The Independent titles will continue to be based at DMGT’s headquarters in High Street Kensington, alongside the Evening Standard. It is understood that Lebedev is hoping to cut costs by finding synergies between the two newspapers, making redundancies all but certain.