Alexander Lebedev: 'No plans to take Independent free'

New Independent owner Alexander Lebedev has said he would like to one day merge his latest title with The Guardian, if the latter ever ran out of money.

Interviewed by The Guardian’s Luke Harding in Moscow he said: ‘I’m a big admirer of The Guardian. Who knows maybe we’ll merge some day? The world is changing very quickly.”

Lebedev revealed in the interview that he has spent £15m on his first British newspaper, the Evening Standard, in 18 months – rather than the three years that had been budgeted for – saying: ‘We’ve spent it already because we’ve forgone money from sales.’The Standard went completely free in December.

The former KGB man said he had no plans to take The Independent free, but added: ‘Never say never.’And he has revealed that he has ambitions to create an international news agency encompassing titles like Der Spiegel in Germany, the New York Times and The Guardian – to expose corruption.

Shedding some light on his own motivations, Lebedev said: “The number one element if you are journalist, which I hope to become one day, is that you put everything in doubt.”

Noting that his own political ambitions have been thwarted in Russia, he told The Guardian: ‘There is no place in political life [in Russia]. I would love to do newspapers really. I like it. That is something I can change.”

Meanwhile Evgeny Lebedev, speaking to the Financial Times, has suggested that the Independent could go free in some regions. The 30-year-old son of Lebedev senior is chairman of Independent Print Ltd, the holding company which owns the Independent titles and said he was mulling a “partial give-away” of the Independent.

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