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Evening Standard claims editorial integrity 'protected' by contract after new investor revealed as Saudi with ties to Independent

A formal agreement has been undertaken to protect the Evening Standard’s editorial independence after a Saudi investor took on a large stake in its parent company.

Saudi investor Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel has bought a stake of 30 per cent in Lebedev Holdings for around £25m, the Financial Times reported today.

Abuljadayel previously bought a 30 per cent stake in Independent Digital News and Media, publishers of the digital-only Independent which is also owned by Evgeny Lebebdev’s company, in August 2017.

It was reported last month that Lebedev Holdings had received a £14m investment for a 20 per cent stake from an unnamed financier through a Cayman Islands firm.

Companies House filing from December last year showed a change in Lebedev’s nature of control in the company to a person with more than 50 per cent but less than 75 per cent of shares in the firm.

A spokesperson for Evening Standard and Independent owner ESI Media told Press Gazette today: “The investment is in Lebedev Holdings Ltd, a private holding company and as such we never comment publicly on our individual shareholders.

“The editorial integrity of the Evening Standard remains paramount and has been formally protected in an agreement with the new investor. The new investment and the guarantee of editorial independence will allow the business to flourish in the future.”

The Evening Standard reported a £9.98m loss for the year ending September 2017, as ESI Media said the title was in an investment phase to develop its “brand, editorial product and advertising proposition”.

When Abuljadayel became a minority shareholder in the Independent, editor Christian Broughton told staff the title would remain “truly independent of any shareholders or business interests” through a formal “shareholder agreement”.

The Independent said the decision to accept Abuljadayel’s investment in return for a minority shareholding would “secure further strategic growth” for the title.

“The new investment and the guarantee of editorial independence will allow The Independent to flourish into the future,” it said.

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