Lebedev AGAIN “in advanced talks” to buy Independent: Will he take it free?

Billionaire Russian former KGB man Alexander Lebedev is AGAIN “in talks” to buy the Independent titles.

According to the FT: Lebedev “is in advanced talks to buy the The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, according to people familiar with the matter”.

IN&M and Lebedev’s people have both declined to comment: A sure sign that something is up.

And Press Gazette understands staff have been told by executives that Lebedev is again “sniffing around”.

But we have been down this road before.

Back in June Lebedev’s people were briefing widely that they were in advanced talks to buy the Independent titles and reports gave the impression that it was an all but done deal. But it all came to nothing.

Buying the Independents would be relatively straight-forward for Lebedev because the titles already share the same offices as the Evening Standard, which he bought from Daily Mail and General Trust in January.

Merging of the news operations would create further savings. Then what? Perhaps make The Independent the UK’s first quality morning free newspaper?

Per Mikael Jensen, then the global editor-in-chief of free newspaper Metro International, told me back in 2004 that he believed the economics of a free upmarket daily newspaper did stack up.

“I don’t see an economical reason why there should be a quality difference between The Guardian and Metro. The distribution advantages of having a free press are so big that over the next three to five years the differences will be a lot smaller.”

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