IN&M pays Alexander Lebedev £9.25m to buy Independent

Independent News and Media has announced the sale of the Independent and Independent on Sunday to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

It was announced that Lebedev has agreed to buy the titles for a nominal £1.

The Lebedev family will take control of the national titles and the Independent website, with existing staff set to transfer over after the takeover.

The deal, which comes after months of negotiations, will see Independent News & Media (INM) pay Lebedev’s new company Independent Print Ltd £9.25 million over 10 months to take on the future liabilities of the loss-making newspapers.

Gavin O’Reilly, group chief executive officer of INM, said: “This is a most satisfactory and positive outcome for the titles, their staff and for INM’s shareholders. The transaction will be immediately earnings accretive for INM. After our successful refinancing in late 2009, this transaction marks an important milestone in the repositioning of our group and will allow INM to focus solely on its market leading, cash generative assets in Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

“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.”

As a result of this disposal, Ivan Fallon, chief executive of Independent News & Media UK has retired from the group, the company said.

Independent Print Limited said in a statement that today’s deal will “safeguard the future of the business”.

The company said in a statement: “The agreement provides a commitment by the Lebedev family to invest in the newspapers, which are currently loss-making, and inject new energy and impetus into them.

“The purchase of the Independent newspapers 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, substantially increasing its commercial revenues.”

Alexander Lebedev said: “I invest in institutions which contribute to democracy and transparency and, at the heart of that, are newspapers which report independently and campaign for the truth to be revealed.

“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 hope, continue to do.”

Alexander Lebedev also announced that he and President Mikhail Gorbachev plan to establish Novaya Independent Media Foundation (NIMF), a not for profit organisation which will finance global media projects.

He said: “In particular, we are talking about Novaya Gazeta in Russia, The Independent and The London Evening Standard in the UK. We hope that other philanthropists will also be interested in maintaining quality journalism to protect freedom of speech and encourage investigative reporting to promote greater transparency in society.”

Evgeny Lebedev, who will be the chairman of the new company as well as the Evening Standard, said: “It is a great privilege to be able to work with two iconic and respected newspapers with its team of 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.”

The rollercoaster history of the Independent titles:

Today’s deal marks the latest twist in the rollercoaster 23-history of the The Independent – and 19-year-history of the Independent on Sunday.

The titles have been critically acclaimed over the years, enjoyed periods of circulation success and always been at the forefront of journalism innovation.

Here Press Gazette looks back over some of the highs, and lows, of The Independent and Independent on Sunday:

The Eighties and Nineties

• 7 October 1986: The Independent launches to general acclaim as a handsome, authoritative broadsheet.

• 28 January 1990: Independent on Sunday, a broadsheet with a tabloid business section is launched, edited by Indy founder Stephen Glover. Four months earlier, the Sunday Correspondent had been launched, edited by Peter Cole. The launch of the IoS is a blow to the Correspondent’s chances of success and it folds in November 1992.

• 1991: Ian Jack is appointed editor of the IoS, succeeding Glover.

• April 1992: The Independent overtakes the circulation of The Times. The Indy’s sales were 389, 523 compared with The Times 386, 258.

• October 1993: In a bid to get The Independent’s tanks off its lawn, The Times unleashes the price war. The dramatic move by Rupert Murdoch leaves The Indy standing at 50p, 20p more than The Times. The subsequent drop in The Indy’s circulation and advertising revenue makes it vulnerable to takeover, with key Spanish and Italian investors keen to sell their 38 per cent shareholdings.

• August 1994: Andreas Whittam Smith and Matthew Symonds leave the paper. Ian Hargreaves appointed editor of The Independent. He joins from the Financial Times where he was deputy editor. In an interview in Press Gazette, Whittam Smith says: “It’s difficult now to imagine how innovative the paper was when it first arrived.”

• December 1994: Indy moves to Canary Wharf from City Road.

• March 1995: A poster campaign by The Independent aimed at The Times and Daily Telegraph causes controversy. The poster features mastheads in the style of The Times and The Daily Telegraph which read “The Rupert Murdoch” and “The Conrad Black“. The advertisement carried the end line “The Independent Independent”. The Advertising Standards Authority says it considers “that the advertisement implied incorrectly that The Independent’s shareholders could not affect the newspaper’s editorial policy and asked the advertisers to withdraw the claim.”

• April 1995: Ian Jack resigns as editor of The Independent on Sunday. Jack is succeeded by Peter Wilby.

• May 1995: Newspaper Publishing, owner of The Independent and Independent on Sunday restructured. Mirror Group and Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media become joint owners of Newspaper Publishing, each with a 43 per cent stake.

• January 1996: Hargreaves goes. Charles Wilson takes over as the acting editor of The Independent.

• March 1996: Forty-two journalists at The Independent and Independent on Sunday made redundant.

• May 1996: Andrew Marr appointed editor of The Independent. He introduces a short-lived redesign.

• August 1996: Twenty-seven thousand copies of The Independent were scrapped after a prankster altered the flannel panel on the leader page to credit editor “Charles Wapping”, deputy editor “Mother Theresa of Calcutta” and managing editor “Colin Who”. Other bogus credits included section two editor “Charles Deadbetter”, assistant editor “Simon Says” and, on the board of directors, “St. Andreas Whittam Smith.”

• February 1998: Rosie Boycott appointed editor of The Independent, the first woman to edit a national broadsheet.

• March 1998: Independent Newspapers takes full control. O’Reilly bought out the other 54 per cent of the company for £30 million, and assumed the company’s debt. Marr brought back as editor-in-chief to work as “dream team” with Boycott.

• April 1998: Rosie Boycott leaves to become editor of Daily Express.

• May 1998: Simon Kelner takes over as editor of The Independent, joining from the editorship of The Mail on Sunday‘s Night & Day section. “The hardest job I’ve got is to raise the morale of a fairly demoralised staff,” said Kelner. “They’ve had a lot thrown at them over the last few years. And what I’ve got to persuade them is that this time it will be different. Well, they’ve been told that a few times before, but this time it WILL be different.”

• July 1998: Kim Fletcher made editor of Independent on Sunday.

• July 1999: Fletcher replaced by Janet Street Porter. Kelvin MacKenzie’s verdict? “She couldn’t edit a bus ticket.”

2000 onwards

• August 2000: The Independent moves to Marsh Wall in London Docklands.

• April 2001: Street Porter made Independent on Sunday editor-at-large. Tristan Davies made editor.

• September 2003: The Independent produced in dual broadsheet and “compact” formats.

• January 2004: Saturday Independent goes tabloid.

• March 2004: The Independent named Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards.

• May 2004: Independent goes totally tabloid.

• October 2005: Independent on Sunday goes tabloid.

• April 2006: New second section, Extra introduced.

• June 2007: Independent on Sunday is relaunched with a news magazine look, in a bid to boost circulation, ditching the multi-section approach in favour of one newspaper and one magazine supplement.

• December 2007: Tristan Davies leaves the editorship of the Independent on Sunday.

• January 2008: John Mullin replaces Davies as IoS editor.

• April 2008: Simon Kelner becomes managing director of The Independent and Independent on Sunday. He is replaced by former Observer editor, Roger Alton. Alton tells Press Gazette that he is ‘absolutely flattered and honoured and privileged and extremely doubtful about whether I am up to the challenge”.

• August 2008: Independent on Sunday averages just 196,752 copies, its lowest ever monthly circulation.

• September 2008: The Independent raises its cover price to £1 and goes full colour.

• October 2008: The Independent hits lowest ever circulation, averaging 201,019 copies each day.

• November 2008: Ninety jobs are cut at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Independent News & Media announce this will save around £10 million. Editor Roger Alton forecast ‘carnage’in the newspaper industry over the coming year and said he considered his paper’s falling circulation ‘a terrible personal failure”.

• December 2008: The Independent on Sunday was the biggest circulation loser among the national Sunday titles – dropping 18.3 per cent year on year to 166,071 copies.

• January 2009: Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev is on track to buy a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard – and signals an interest in acquiring the Independent titles.

• February 2009: Journalists at Independent News and Media voted64 per cent in favour of a strike due to anger at November’s announcement that Independent News and Media was cutting 90 jobs from its two titles, with 60 of those from editorial.

• March 2009: About 20 journalists at The Independent and Independent on Sunday are served with compulsory redundancy notices. Business and city editor Jeremy Warner leaves The Independent after 23 years to become assistant editor of The Daily Telegraph.

• April 2009: Both titles relocate from Canary Wharf to the Associated Newspapers‘ headquarters in Kensington.

• September 2009: Denis O’Brien, the second biggest shareholder in Independent News & Media, calls for a meeting of shareholders to bring about the immediate sale or closure of the Independent and Independent on Sunday. Instead, Gavin O’Reilly wins board support for his debt restructuring proposals. Under the new deal, bondholders owed €200m by INM will take a 46 per cent stake in the company.

• November 2009: Sale of The Independent drops 7.2 per cent year on year to 186,557; the Independent on Sunday is down 5.8 per cent to 156,517.

• December 2009: Independent News & Media confirms it has entered exclusive talks over the sale of The Independent and Independent on Sunday with London Evening Standard owner Alexander Lebedev.

• February 2010: Independent News & Media extends period of exclusivity on Lebedev talks.

• February 2010: Lebedev and son Evgeny pay a visit to Gordon Brown

• February 2010: Lebedev Holdings registers Independent Print Ltd subsidiary with Companies House.

• February 2010: Independent staff accepts reduced redundancy terms package after being told by managing editor Simon Keller that if they failed to accept the title could disappear.

• February 2010: Independent News & Media submits deals of proposed sale to the Office of Fair Trading for scrutiny

• February 2010: Lebedev tells Wall Street Journal the two sides “only need to agree a few details” and that he would honour Trinity Mirror‘s long-standing deal to print the Independent – thought to be the last stumbling block to a deal.

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