Independent no more? Saudi sultan buys stake in ex-paper
A MYSTERIOUS Saudi investor has purchased a significant stake in the
Independent, the former national newspaper that last year moved all of its operations online.
Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel, 42, is thought to have taken a 30pc stake in the online newspaper, which published its last printed edition in March 2016.
The move means that Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of parent company ESI Media, which also owns the Evening
Standard, now holds a stake of less than 50pc in the title, with more than 25pc also held by Justin Byam Shaw, the chairman of ESI Media.
The Independent said the investment by Mr Abuljadayel, who appears to have no other business interests in the UK, will allow the online newspaper to “flourish into the future”.
However, the move will raise questions about the independence of the website, which was known for its liberal stance as a newspaper before moving online-only following years of financial difficulties.
In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has demanded the closure of Qatar-based broadcaster Al-jazeera amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
Al-jazeera said the attempts to shut it down were “nothing but an attempt to end freedom of expression in the region”.
An Independent spokesman insisted the website’s editorial independence has been “formally protected by a new agreement between the shareholders”.
The spokesman added: “To secure further strategic growth for the Independent, Independent Digital News and Media Ltd has expanded its investor base to include a minority shareholding by Sultan Abuljadayel. The new investment and the guarantee of editorial independence will allow the
Independent to flourish into the future.”
According to Amol Rajan, the last newsprint editor of the Independent who is now the media editor of the BBC, Mr Abuljadayel is not a member of the Saudi government or royal family. The 42-year-old comes from a family with a large international property portfolio, and will not have a seat on the company’s board. Announcing last year that the Independent would cease printing, Mr Lebedev said the decision to move the entire operation online “preserves the
Independent brand and allows us to continue to invest in the high-quality editorial content that is attracting more and more readers to our online platforms”.
Kick-off BT and Sky are ready to take to the pitch for TV rights to Football League matches. It is understood that rights to the EFL Cup, formerly the League Cup, may be sold separately.