Reports that a Russian billionaire has made overtures to buy the Evening Standard raises an interesting option for the future ownership of the UK’s largely loss-making national press.
The Guardian reports that Lord Rothermere has rejected a bid from Alexander Lebedev to buy the Standard – which has been loss making for some years and was under extreme pressure from the daily free newspaper war in London before the current downturn compounded matters.
The story, which does not contain any named or quoted sources, has not been denied by Standard owner Daily Mail and General Trust.
According to the FT, Lebedev made the approach last month – but he was rejected without any detailed discussions opening up.
If Lebedev is in the market for a trophy press asset – he may also look at the Independent, which has had to take the drastic measure of sharing offices with the Daily Mail to stem its losses.
It will certainly be interesting to see if he makes enquiries elsewhere.
With the current drastically curtailed profitability of national newspaper publishing – it is possible that any national title, outside News International and Guardian Media Group, could be up for sale at the right price.