Lebedev Says He'll Continue To Go After Evening Standard

Alexander Lebedev is continuing to pursue an effort to buy a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard newspaper from Daily Mail and General Trust, a person with direct knowledge of the bid said Wednesday.

An answer on the proposal to acquire 75 percent plus one share is expected Wednesday or Thursday, a person familiar with the talks said. A Daily Mail spokesman declined to comment. Lebedev, a 49-year-old millionaire and ex-KGB officer who was worth billions until markets collapsed last year, said he has held talks with the owners of top British newspapers for more than a year.

"This is not my way to make money, but I'd like to explain to the public that newspapers are something they should love and cherish," Lebedev said. "Obviously, I would be in charge of the financial side" and wouldn't play a role in news content, he said.

Forbes magazine in May ranked Lebedev as Russia's 39th-richest person, with a net worth of $3.1 billion. His business interests include banking, agriculture and construction and a blocking stake in Aeroflot.

Lebedev, who owns a stake in Novaya Gazeta, has also signaled interest in The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, a British national newspaper that has experienced job losses, budget cuts and a decline in ad revenue. A spokesman for Independent News & Media, which owns the titles, declined to comment.

"I have an interest in serving the case of defending the freedom and independence of print media," Lebedev said.

"These assets are trophy assets," said Adrian Monck, the head of the journalism department at City University London. "The Evening Standard is London's only paid newspaper, and it commands a lot of prestige. Owning it accordingly would be a trophy asset."