Lebedevs buy Independent titles to secure future

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The future of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday was secured yesterday when Independent Print Limited (IPL), a company owned by the Lebedev family, agreed to acquire the newspapers from Independent News and Media (INM).

The agreement provides a commitment by the Lebedev family to invest in the newspapers, which have been owned by INM for 12 years.

Alexander Lebedev said yesterday: "I invest in institutions which contribute to democracy and transparency, and at the heart of that are newspapers which report independently and campaign for truth. I am a supporter of in-depth investigative reporting and campaigns which promote transparency and seek to fight international corruption. These are things The Independent has always done well and will, I am sure, continue to do."

Gavin O'Reilly, group CEO of INM, said: "I wish IPL and the staff every success for the future in continuing the development of these important and influential titles. I believe that the Lebedevs will be progressive and supportive owners of the Independent titles, which have played such an important role in British public life for nearly 25 years. I wish them, the titles and our former colleagues every success for the future."

The purchase of the Independent newspapers and independent.co.uk follows the Lebedevs' acquisition last year of a 75 per cent shareholding in the London Evening Standard. Since then, the Evening Standard's circulation has risen from 250,000 to 600,000, and it is now read by 1.4 million Londoners daily.

In addition to the London Evening Standard, the Lebedevs also co-own, with former president Mikhail Gorbachev, Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's few pro-democracy newspapers. The paper has a reputation for independence and high-quality reporting and was where the celebrated journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006, worked.

Evgeny Lebedev, who will be the chairman of the new company, said: "It is a great privilege to be able to work with two iconic and respected newspapers with their brilliant journalists, and to be part of a plan for the long-term survival of the papers. I wish to ensure their sense of independent and free-spirited reporting continues to thrive. I believe strongly in the value and purpose of serious newspapers."

Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev both paid tribute to the support and commitment that the O'Reilly family have given to the Independent titles over many years. Alexander Lebedev, who will be a board director of IPL, said: "Tony O'Reilly and his family have been stalwart, innovative and courageous investors who have allowed an important paper to provide some of the most authoritative and remarkable journalism which has rightly won respect and admiration worldwide."

Yesterday's news was welcomed across the political spectrum. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said: "I welcome this news as it will bring stability and a secure future to these great newspapers."

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said: "Our newspapers play a vital part in British democracy and it's good news that the future of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday has been secured by the Lebedev family." And Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "Anyone who cares about pluralism in the British press will welcome the continued commitment to independent, campaigning journalism. A healthy democracy depends on a press which includes a wide range of views and strong voices prepared to challenge vested interests and the powerful. I look forward to the Independent newspapers continuing to lead the way in doing just that."

Independent News and Media bought the Independent titles in 1998 and, under its ownership, the papers have maintained their reputation for campaigning journalism and innovation. In 2003, The Independent pioneered the move to a compact format, which was copied around the world and resulted in the paper winng a host of awards, including Newspaper of the Year in the 2004 British Press Awards.