Thursday, 15 January 2009

Russian takeover of Evening Standard delayed but not dead says MediaGuardian

MediaGuardian - which broke the sensational news that Russian billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev was about to take a majority stake in the London Evening Standard - reports the deal has been delayed but has not stalled and was expected to go through "within days".
Lebedev's London-based son, 28-year-old Evgeny, was due to see DMGT's lawyers today for a meeting at which it was understood the final terms of the deal to buy a 76 per cent stake in the Evening Standard would be agreed, MediaGuardian reports, but adds: "However, tempers are understood to have frayed on both sides after news of the imminent signing of the Evening Standard deal were revealed by MediaGuardian yesterday."
Lord Rothermere, DMGT's chairman, is also said to still hold concerns over post-takeover issues such as redundancies.
Supporters of Lebedev say the paper he has backed in Moscow, Novaya Gazeta, is known for its editorial independence and published the work of assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The NUJ today bemoaned the lack of transparency surrounding the deal. NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick, said: “If it is true it is yet another example of sealed bid deals with no transparency about the new ownership's commitment to the future of the only paid-for title to cover all of London.
“Investment is clearly needed, and a long term strategy to serve Londoners in a more impartial way would be welcome. Once again no declarations have been made about editorial independence.”
Interestingly, Roy Greenslade on his blog tonight is more sceptical than the MediaGuardian story. He writes: "At this end of the day, almost 24 hours after it first broke, I am beginning to wonder if the story about Alexander Lebedev's acquisition of the London Evening Standard is quite as strong as we have been led to believe.
"By which I mean, the deal has not yet been sealed, and an official statement to that effect on behalf of the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) will emerge very soon. It does confirm that there have been negotiations between Lebedev and DMGT. But these are ongoing talks with a way to go before there is any possibility of them being finalised.
"I do know that DMGT's chairman Lord Rothermere and his senior executives were less than pleased - well, incandescent with anger - about the story's emergence way ahead of any firm agreement."

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