Thursday 29 September 2016

Fears for two Fleet Street titles as sister paper set to be sold

Ashley Armstrong

Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30

Evgeny Lebedev holds a freshly printed copy of the ‘i’ weekday newspaper on the day of the tabloid’s launch in 2010. Photo: Bloomberg
Evgeny Lebedev holds a freshly printed copy of the ‘i’ weekday newspaper on the day of the tabloid’s launch in 2010. Photo: Bloomberg

The future of UK newspapers 'The Independent' and 'The Independent on Sunday' has been plunged into doubt after it emerged that owner Evgeny Lebedev had secured a deal to sell its cheaper, tabloid i newspaper to Britain's Johnston Press.

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Sources have confirmed that, while a final decision has yet to be made, the Lebedevs intend to stop print production of the two national titles but keep The Independent website and its profitable London-only 'Evening Standard' newspaper.

It is understood that the full terms of the £24m deal between the Lebedev family and Johnston Press, the owner of 'The Yorkshire Post' and 'The Scotsman', will be announced today following a committee meeting.

Johnston Press is only interested in the i newspaper but will take on around half its staff and sources have said the costs associated with the rest of The Independent's business will remain with the current owners.

Amol Rajan, editor of 'The Independent', told staff yesterday that the company was "not in a position to address all staff this morning" about their future.

"I am very sorry to say, however, that for the time being we really are bound by strict rules on what we can and can't say about this potential deal."

Johnston Press said the deal would create the UK's fourth largest print publisher with more than 600,000 paid copies a day.

It will also create an opportunity to launch a website for the i newspaper and attract a greater share of advertising.

The listed publisher has reduced its debts from £400m to £180m since Ashley Highfield joined as chief executive in 2011.

Johnston Press, which is understood to be working with advisers at Panmure Gordon and Ingenious Media, will need shareholder approval for the deal.

The Lebedevs bought 'The Independent' - founded 30 years ago - for a nominal £1 fron INM, which publishes this newspaper, in 2010.

The decision to launch the i was a considered choice to broaden its readership and bring in more advertising. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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