This is turning out to be like waiting for the Christmas turkey: A deal between Alexander Lebedev and Independent News & Media is cooking — we can definitely smell it — but it’s not done yet. Today’s Times reports that that the Russian billionaire has now bought the Independent and Independent on Sunday papers, but a person close to the situation says this is not true, at least not for now.
“As you and I talk now, I’m not expecting an announcement today,” he told paidContent:UK this morning.
And he neither confirmed nor denied reports from over the weekend that the publication will be sold for a nominal sum, similar to the £1 that was paid by Lebedev to DMGT for the Evening Standard: “The reports you’ve seen reflect the expectation that there’s not going to be a vast sum of money changing hands,” he says.
Lebedev and INM have been negotiating over the sale of the two titles for months now, officially for the better part of the last three. In February, the Independent extended its exclusive talks with the Russian billionaire by two weeks, a deadline that has now approached again.
Then on February 25, INM made a submission to the Office of Fair Trading inviting comments in relation to the anticipated acquisition. These will close on March 11.
Part of the hold-up has apparently been down to the long-term printing contract that the Independent and Independent on Sunday have with Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) — Lebedev wants this renegotiated. Sly Bailey, the CEO of Trinity Mirror, says that all parties are working to a swift resolution in this matter.