I’ve no idea about the ins and outs of the squabble between newspaper publisher Alexander Lebedev and another Russian tycoon, Sergei Polonsky.
But Lebedev’s televised assault on Polonsky (see above) does much to counter the prevailing view of him as a rather earnest and grey figure.
In a couple of seconds of spontaneous action Lebedev has joined the colourful ranks of maverick media moguls.
He has been regarded as something of a man of mystery in Britain, mostly due to his once having been a KGB officer and, partially, because of his tendency to frustrate interviewers who ask direct questions by responding with lengthy, cryptic monologues.
He has instantly become an altogether more fascinating chap, standing four-square in the tradition of Hearst, Northcliffe, Beaverbook, Maxwell and Black. Not that any of them got so physical.
Lebedev explained his sudden attack on Polonsky by saying:
“I had to listen to his very aggressive behaviour for an hour and a half. He insulted everyone in the room.”
I’m not a fan of such behaviour, but sometimes if you are threatened verbally and physically you have to neutralise the threat to the best of your ability, without harming the other person. That’s what I did.”
Clearly, Lebedev is now a man to be reckoned with, and the incident gives a glimpse of the steel that has seen him stand up to the Russian authorities, not least through his part ownership of the Moscow paper, Novaya Gazeta.
Note the comment from Dmitri Rogozin, Russia‘s representative to Nato, who tweeted: “Nice one, Lebedev, although fighting is not good. He deserved it. You’re a real man.”
A real newspaperman, for sure.
[Full disclosure: I write a column for the London Evening Standard]