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Hmmm!

Posted by Helen Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It was always a mystery to me why the owners of the London Evening Standard, the sole remaining evening paper in the capital, the Daily Mail and General Trust, should have thought it was a good idea to launch two freebie newspapers to compete with its own title. Let's just say that the presence of the Metro and LondonLite did not help the Standard's sales.

Then again, those freebies (there is at least one more) do not really help anybody except me, because I no longer have to buy newspapers in order to line the cat litter trays. But I digress.

The Standard's fortunes looked up a bit a few years ago when its business section poached several of the Telegraph's financial writers. In the end, the low quality of the rest of the newspaper (just how many stories can one read about celeb one has never heard of?) with even Londoner's Diary becoming less and less sparky has completed the downfall.

Recently, you could get free umbrellas and coffee jugs with copies of the newspaper - always a bad sign. Then there were rumours and stories that it was going to be sold by the ex-KGB agent, now media tycoon, Alexander Lebedev.

Those rumours have now been confirmed.

DMGT said its national newspaper division, Associated Newspapers, had sold 75.1 percent in its loss-making 50p evening newspaper for a "nominal sum" – widely thought to be £1 – to Evening Press Ltd, a company formed by Lebedev and his son Evgeny. Greig is a shareholder in Evening Press Ltd along with Justin Byam Shaw, a telecoms entrepreneur and adviser to Lebedev Holdings.

Evening Press will own 75.1 percent of a new company, Evening Standard Ltd. Associated will be a minority shareholder with 24.9 percent, but will not have a seat on its board or direct involvement in editorial policy. The Russian tycoon has said he wants to have an editorial board comprised of luminaries such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Lebedev's personal friend, and Tony Blair.

Alexander Lebedev, who has interests in Russia's National Reserve Bank and Aeroflot, will be the chairman of Evening Standard Ltd. Shaw will be deputy chairman and Evgeny Lebedev will be senior executive director.
To be fair, to Alexander Lebedev (the son seems to be little more than a playboy who squires female celebs), he is also the co-owner of Novaya Gazeta, the only more or less independent large newspaper in Russia. Its journalists have a very high mortality rate. The last one to be shot was Anastasiya Baburova on Monday together with the prominent human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov.

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