Lebedev close to Independent buyout with competition request

RUSSIAN oligarch Alexander Lebedev and Independent News & Media (IMN) have approached the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) over the planned sale of The Independent newspapers.

In a move indicating an imminent deal, the submission invited competition-related comment on the “anticipated acquisition of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday by Lebedev Holdings Limited”.

Exclusive negotiations between the parties end today after 12 months of on-off talks. The deadline for input to the OFT paper is 11 March, with the body due to issue a ruling by 26 April.

Lebedev, who owns the London Evening Standard, is thought to be close to agreement with INM on sticking issues such as its printing contract with Trinity Mirror, pension deficit and redundancy obligations.