Being a newspaper magnate is never a quiet life as Alexander Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, knows only too well from his ownership of liberal Moscow title Novaya Gazeta. Four journalists on the paper have been murdered in the past decade.
But it must still have come as something of a surprise for the adventurous tycoon to held in the offices of a bank he owns in the Russian capital as 30 or so armed Russian cops turned the place over, looking for ‘files’ to be used in a criminal investigation.
In Russia these says it’s quite difficult to tell the cops from the criminals of course. But the cops probably enjoy the favour of prime minister Vladimir Putin.
But will Alexander be giving an exclusive interview to the Independent, or the Standard or even his new cut-down Indy i, tomorrow?
Lebedev once toiled as economics attache at the Soviet London embassy, paid for by the KGB. He claims he spent most of his time reading the Financial Times, which he obviously put to good use in building a financial empire (which also includes part-ownership of Aeroflot) worth an estimated £3bn when former Russian premier Boris Yeltsin flogged the nation’s assets on the cheap to a bunch of privatised spooks.
For decades newspaper owners in the UK have sought political importance (Beaverbrook, the Rothermeres, some would say the Murdochs) without ever really achieving it.
Alexander, who seems a decent sort, clearly has it in Russia. But he’d be better off concentrating on the day job, being a media owner in England.