Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev is reportedly close to buying the Evening Standard. He is expected to acquire the London evening paper for an undisclosed sum as soon as tomorrow (January 16).
It is believed that he would take a controlling 76% stake in the paper, while current owner Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) would retain 24%.
The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures revealed that in the six months to December, the Evening Standard rose 3.04% to 294,337. However, during December it fell 5.24% month-on-month.
The acquisition would see a controversial figure entering the UK publishing scene. In 2003, he ran against Moscow’s pro-Kremlin mayor Yuri Luzhkov, but was unsuccessful. He also has a stake in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Lebedev, who has an estimated wealth of about $1.5bn, has other business interests including a stake in Russia’s state airline Aeroflot and a luxury Italian hotel.
DMGT has declined to comment.