Embattled Western publications—often critics of what was once called the Communist bloc—are now depending upon deep pockets from that very bloc to stay solvent. A Russian banker, Gleb Fetisov, bid for a stake in Le Monde. Last year, another French daily, France Soir, was purchased by Alexander Pugachev, the son of Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev. Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent who already owned London Evening Standard, added The Independent to his empire in March. And two Chinese firms bid unsuccessfully for Newsweek magazine.
But while wealthy owners extend much-needed lifelines, the real challenge for these publications begins now: to remain independent, and to continue scrutinizing the activities of exactly the sort of oligarchs who will be their new owners.