Alexander Lebedev is reportedly considering legal action against The Guardian after alleging that comments attributed to him in an article last week were based on an off-the-record conversation.
A story in the newspaper last week said Lebedev was considering replacing Simon Kelner as editor of The Independent, found the newspaper ‘a bit boring”, and felt the Daily Mail was a more entertaining read.
But in an interview published in the New Statesman today, his son Evgeny – the sole proprietor of the Evening Standard and the three Independent newspapers – was said to be “unimpressed” with the report, claiming it was based on an off-the-record conversation and that his father’s comments were taken out of context.
‘That is not ethical journalism,’Evgeny told the magazine, adding that his father was now considering legal action.
The Guardian has denied the claim. ‘Alexander Lebedev gave two on-the-record interviews with two Guardian reporters,’said a spokesperson for Guardian News & Media.
‘We stand by the story and have not received any complaints.”
In a wide-ranging interview with New Statesman – which like Press Gazette is owned by the Progressive Media group – Evgeny admitted that The Independent needed to be ‘invigorated’and that he was planning to do this “in the next three to four months”.
While he did not rule out taking the newspaper free, he did rule out using paywalls on any of his websites.
Asked whether he would consider buying more titles, he replied: ‘I can’t really tell you that. It depends on what comes up – if an interesting opportunity comes up I’ll always take a look at it.”
Evgeny, who described Rupert Murdoch as an ‘inspirational’figure, bought the Evening Standard for £1 in January 2009 and is reported to have invested around £20m in the paper.
Figures released this week show that during the first year under his ownership its losses fell from £30.6m to £16.9m. Evgeny expects the title to begin breaking even this year and to start making a profit in 2012.