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Alexander Lebedev buys Independent newspapers

Alexander Lebedev has bought The Independent and The Independent on Sunday from Independent News & Media (INM). The Russian billionaire, who purchased London daily the Evening Standard last January, acquired the newspapers for a nominal sum of £1, The Guardian reports.

Under the terms of the deal, INM will pay Lebedev’s new Independent Print Limited (IPL) £9.25 million over the next ten months in exchange for IPL assuming “all future trading liabilities & obligations”. Negotiations for the titles have reportedly been ongoing since this time last year and have involved the newspapers’ managing director and editor-in-chief Simon Kelner.

Lebedev becomes the fourth owner of the newspapers, following a consortium led by founders Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds; Mirror Group Newspapers; and INM.

There has been speculation that Lebedev could turn The Independent into a freesheet after taking the Evening Standard free last October, though it is believed that Lebedev and his son Evgeny told Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a recent meeting that they would not do so.

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