Lebedev eyes Independent

RUSSIAN oligarch, and Evening Standard majority stakeholder, Alexander Lebedev is understood to be mulling a deal to buy The Independent and Independent on Sunday.<br /><br />Simon Kelner, the Independent titles&rsquo; managing director, and Lebedev have been in discussions over a possible deal for some months, but the process is said to have been accelerated this week.<br /><br />The tie up between the titles, which have shared the same building since early May, could lead to significant cost savings across both their commercial and editorial operations.<br /><br />And Denis O&rsquo;Brien, a majority shareholder in the Independent titles&rsquo; owner, Independent News &amp; Media (INM), has been calling for a sale of the titles for some time. <br /><br />A nominal offer for the two titles has already been tabled, according to trade magazine Media Week.<br /><br />&ldquo;There are several options and a sale is not a done deal,&rdquo; said Media Week editor Steve Barratt. &ldquo;But there is a proposal on the table and an announcement is expected by the end of the month.&rdquo;<br /><br />The news comes ahead of INM&rsquo;s, annual general meeting, being held this morning, at which shareholders will hope for an update on the refinancing of its &euro;220m (&pound;187m) bond, due to expire on 26 June.<br /><br />It is highly unlikely than any sale will go through before the issue of financing the bond is resolved.<br /><br />Lebedev declined to comment yesterday.