When Alexander Lebedev was a KGB spy in London, it was a daily habit to read the capital's Evening Standard newspaper.
Now, he owns it. The Standard's owners announced Wednesday that the Russian tycoon has bought a controlling 75.1 percent stake in the venerable but money-losing paper for a "nominal sum" widely reported to be Â£1 ($1.40).
Lebedev insists he's not in it for the money - a good thing, media analysts say. With newspapers across Europe and North America in crisis, it's a poor investment.
"He won't make a profit from it," said Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at City University in London. "If one of the most successful media companies in Britain can't make money off it, with the greatest respect, I don't think he can."
After weeks of rumors, Standard owner Daily Mail & General Trust PLC confirmed Wednesday that a company formed by Lebedev and his 28-year-old son Evgeny would acquire 75.1% of London's afternoon newspaper, with the elder Lebedev becoming chairman of the newspaper's board. Daily Mail & General Trust will retain a 24.9% stake.