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Report: Russian billionaire could become British newspaper owner


Published :
Thu, 15 Jan 2009 06:32
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London - A Russian oligarch who was assigned as an agent to the former Soviet embassy in Britain is set to buy a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard newspaper, the Guardian reported Thursday. Alexander Lebedev is to buy 76 per cent of the tabloid, London's only evening paper, following secret negotiations with Lord Rothermere, the newspaper baron and chairman of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

If the deal went ahead, it would be the first time a Russian oligarch and former member of a foreign intelligence service had owned a British title, the report said.

Lebedev told the Guardian that he had read the Evening Standard and other British newspapers when he was a young spy at the Soviet embassy in London in the late 1980s.

"I had to read every newspaper. I was there for that," he said, describing the Standard as a "a very good newspaper."

However, he had "no intention" of interfering in British politics and would have a "hands-off approach."

Last year, Forbes ranked Lebedev the world's 358th richest billionaire, with a fortune of 3.1 billion dollars, made mostly through banking and insurance and through Russian airline Aeroflot, in which he has a stake.


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