Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev is seeking a minority partner for his UK media holdings, the Independent and the Evening Standard, due to forecasts of continuing losses.
The move comes a month after the tycoon announced he was drawing up “contingency plans” for the papers, as he faces charges of hooliganism and battery that he says are designed to stifle his criticism of corruption in Vladimir Putin‘s Russia.
The 52-year-old former KGB agent, who is worth $1.1bn according to Forbes, has said his chief businesses will make losses this year – an expected $5m at his small airline Red Wings and 1.5bn roubles (£29.9m) at his National Reserve Bank, amid unprecedented pressure from Russia’s security services. He is also considering floating his stake in Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s chief opposition and investigative newspaper.
This month his son, newspaper publisher Evgeny Lebedev, wound up a high-profile investigative journalism initiative his family launched to expose corruption. The London offices of the Journalism Foundation were closed less than a year after the project was launched.
Alexander faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of punching Sergei Polonsky, a property developer, in the face live on television in September 2011. He faces the same hooliganism charge as that levelled against the punk protest band Pussy Riot, who were jailed after performing anti-Putin songs in a Moscow cathedral.