Sunday, 21 February 2010

Moscow Meets Fleet Street: Can a Russian Oligarch Save the British Press?

SPIEGEL ONLINE INTERNATIONAL: Alexander Lebedev sees himself as the savior of Britain's struggling newspaper industry. He already owns the Evening Standard and is in talks to buy The Independent. But some suspect the Russian oligarch has ulterior motives.

Alexander Lebedev is sitting in the television studio of a Moscow news station. He is in demand on this particular morning. He likes being in demand, and he likes being asked questions.

Lebedev has just sold his share of Russia's state-owned airline Aeroflot, with the personal blessing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in a deal worth €300 million ($411 million). The news caused something of an uproar in Moscow and elsewhere.

The Russian magnate is suddenly flush with cash, a fact that has the media abuzz in faraway London. The British papers suspect that Lebedev, 50, and his son Evgeny, 29, have now obtained the necessary cash that will allow them to finally buy the prestigious British daily The Independent.

"What nonsense. That amount of money is enough to buy the entire British press," says Lebedev, laughing, as he quickly pushes open the studio door. >>> Isabell Hülsen and Matthias Schepp | Friday, February 19, 2010