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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebedev in Talks to Buy 2 British Newspapers

Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev is in exclusive talks to purchase two British national newspapers, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, the newspapers' parent company said Friday.

Independent News and Media PLC said in a statement that it had entered into a nonbinding agreement with Lebedev — who already owns London's Evening Standard newspaper ¬— "with regard to the future ownership" of the two titles. The exclusivity agreement expires Feb. 15, 2010.

"It should be emphasized that these discussions are still preliminary at this stage," the statement from the Dublin-based company said. "As such, there is no certainty that these discussions will lead to the finalization of a transaction of any kind."
Shares in the media group rose 11.4 percent to 12 euro cents (17 U.S. cents) on the London Stock Exchange.

Lebedev, a former KGB agent, purchased a controlling interest in the Evening Standard, the city's afternoon newspaper, in January. Eight months later, Lebedev announced that the Standard would be distributed free, becoming the first so-called quality paper to do so.

Lebedev made his money in insurance and banking, and is known as a philanthropist and champion of independent media. The Independent and its Sunday edition are known for left-of-center politics and often place topics like the environment, civil liberties, and labor issues on its front page.

In addition to the Standard, Lebedev also owns a stake in Russian daily Novaya Gazeta and is a part-owner of national carrier Aeroflot. Forbes magazine reported that his 2008 net worth was $3.1 billion, but said he had lost $2.5 billion as the value of his holdings dropped.