The Evening Standard’s revamp may not have brought readers back yet, but that hasn’t stopped owner Alexander Lebedev planning the next acquisition of his media empire: he’s reportedly sniffing round the Independent.
Sir Anthony Reilly, the septuagenarian owner of Independent News & Media, the parent group of both Indy and Sindy, will step down at today’s AGM, and all the talk of the now-atomised Fleet Street is that his parting gift has been to engineer a sale to the Russian investor who bought the Standard at the beginning of the year.
As Media Guardian puts it:
A report in the trade title Media Week yesterday quoted a claim from a source (our emphasis) that a nominal offer for the two titles had already been tabled
Clear as printer’s ink, then. It is thought that former editor and managing director Simon Kelner is piloting a deal worth up to £20 million: he and Lebedev are close friends, after all. And from a business standpoint, it would be ideal: with the two titles soon to be sharing an office in the Daily Mail General Trust’s Kensington offices, “synergy” and cost-cutting across the papers would a readily achieved goal.
Of course, back in the real world this would mean redundancies on both sides, and the Independent’s eponymously-expressed position in British newspapers would be greatly affected. Yet a humbled Indy would be better than no Indy at all. The paper, with the lowest circulation of any national daily, is in a gentle freefall, and the Sunday edition in particular is in serious danger of disappearing for good. If being part of the Standard group is the only way to resist what is essentially a long goodbye, then the paper’s journalists and and dwindling readers should welcome it.