The i newspaper could go free and the future of The Independent is ‘very up-market’ according to Evgeny Lebedev.
The 32-year-old son of Alexander Lebedev also told The Sunday Times that his family will continue to fund The Independent titles despite the fact his father is facing possible jail after punching a rival during a TV debate.
The Lebedevs are estimated to have lost £80m on the Independent titles since buying them in 2010. They have admitted that they are now seeking a new investment partner for the business.
Lebedev told the Sunday Times: “We’ve been funding The Independent out of personal funds for a number of years — and will continue to do so."
Evgeny said the decision to buy the London Evening Standard – the family acquired a 75 per cent stake in the business in January 2009 – came after the Lebedevs were introduced to Lord Rothermere, DMGT’s controlling shareholder, by Geordie Greig, the then editor of Tatler who went on to edit the Standard and now The Mail on Sunday.
“A lot of people think there was a big story about planning but it all happened over dinner. We all had quite a lot to drink and then Jonathan said, do you want to buy the Standard and that was that.”
Sales of The Independent stood at just under 80,000 a day in December while its cut-price stablemate i shifted just over 290,000 copies (including 65,000 bulks).
Asked whether the i could go free, Lebedev said: “That’s something we are definitely looking at. It’s not something that will happen tomorrow or in a month’s time but it’s a possibility.”
Asked about plans for The Independent, he said: “We’ve done a lot of research and worked out that the future of the paper is very up market.”