Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev, owner of The Independent and Evening Standard, says he wants to buy Rupert Murdoch’s disgraced News of the World and rebrand it to restore it to its former “glory.”
“I wish,” Lebedev told Bloomberg in an interview published yesterday. “But I don’t think my pocket is deep enough at the moment, but if I’m able to sell any of my businesses, be it Aeroflot or banking, then I’m really very much interested.” Murdoch shut the paper in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and told a parliamentary committee this week that there were no immediate plans to revive it.
Lebedev announced earlier this year that he was planning to sell all his businesses – except for his much-loved potato factory and his UK papers – to devote himself full-time to the fight against corruption (his argument, as he explained it to me, is that businessmen in Russia are seen as inherently corrupt and to be respected as a corruption fighter you have to get out of business). He’s joined Putin’s People’s Front and said this week he would be happy to enter the State Duma as a United Russia member. This after years of fashioning himself as a man in the opposition (namely against former mayor Yury Luzhkov, but also more widely through his co-ownership of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper).
Lebedev told Bloomberg he would use a rebranded News of the World in his anti-corruption struggle. “Lebedev, 51, said he would use a remade version of the defunct newspaper to raise interest in stories about corruption and wrongdoing by rich and powerful people,” Bloomberg writes. Anti-corruption is Russia’s hip new thing, both officially sanctioned (President Medvedev) and not (Alexey Navalny). “I would be the happiest person to actually get rid of everything, sell it, and just go into publishing and investigative journalism,” Lebedev said.
And what would he name the new paper?
“Half-jokingly, I would say I wish I could remake the News of the World under a different brand: World News.”
Look, they already have an anthem: