Alexander Lebedev's purchase of the Evening Standard from DMGT is a key development in the newspaper sector on a number of levels.
Firstly, by selling the loss making ES, DMGT can now concentrate on the loss making London Lite, free of the shackles of cannibalising advertising revenues(remember them?)from its paid for sister title. Though by keeping a stake in the Standard, it does look a bit like DMGT are hedging their bets. If London Lite can now start to make some headway in this difficult advertising market against The Londonpaper and also the ES, the sale of the Standard could be a great deal for the wider group. However, the scale of the challenge must not be underestimated in today's recessionary times, this should be seen as a 3 year play. It will be interesting to see how News International react now to the new situation in their crusade to move the Londonpaper towards break-even.
Secondly, Lebedev is promising to invest millions into the Standard as his "social mission" to make it a success. Given how many millions DMGT has "invested" over the last 5 years, will the Russian be able to turn round the financial performance? It's a tough ask, but if he brings in the right senior team to run the paper free from any Group constraints, and invests in the right strategic initiatives (see numerous posts on this blog) you have to believe that he could give it a good go. The worst thing that could happen is for him to tinker around the edges as that'll be reminiscent of the band playing on after the iceberg had been struck.
Thirdly, discussions about whether a former KGB spy is a "fit and proper person" to run an august British media institution raises a smile, particularly as it's Peter Mandleson who will set any inquiry into motion. While we've moved on from the Maxwell and Conrad Black standards of "fit and proper", you've got to assume that if the Standard's news agenda is set to become a London-based Russian oligarchial mouthpiece, the public will vote with their feet and give the Standard a miss.