Former KGB Agent Buys London Evening Standard for £1

23 January 2009

LONDON: For James Bond aficionados here's a news story with all the familiar elements: a former KGB officer, a newspaper baron, and a youthful old-Etonian toff from one of England's noblest families. The scenario goes something like this…

    M: "Commander Bond, stop caressing your Walther PPK and listen when I'm speaking to you."

    Bond: "Aye-aye Ma'am. Be assured that the safety catch is always on in your presence."

    M: [a prim smile flickers at the corners of her grey-green eyes] "Don't be impertinent Bond – and pay attention. The free world is facing its greatest threat."

    Bond: "You don't mean …?"

    M: "No, Martin Sorrell has not made a hostile bid for the House of Windsor. It's worse than that; worse even than a Democrat in the White House. London's sole evening newspaper has been purchased by the KGB."

    Bond: "My God, not the … Evening Standard?"

    M: "Steady Bond, the future of democracy is in your hands. This needs to be handled with the utmost discretion. Under no circumstances can we allow the Standard, now the plaything of oligarch and former KGB colonel Alexander Lebedev, to start printing the Siberian cricket results."

    Bond: [a grim and steely glint illuminates his ice-blue eyes]: "Then, ma'am, I'm afraid that there's no alternative … except to …"

    M: "Yes, yes?"

    Bond: "It's a one in a million chance … but if we could infiltrate a scion of the English upper class into the Standard's editorial chair, we might – just might – thwart this dastardly plan."

    M: "You mean …"

    Bond: "Yes. Irradiate Londoners with news of hunt balls, polo matches, the Ascot Gold Cup and the cocktail menu at Annabel's. It's more deadly than polonium and even slower."

    M: "But surely not even the Russians could be as inhumane as that!" 

    Bond: [musingly] "Perhaps not – but there's an old school chum who just might fit the bill."

    M: "Not …"

    Bond: "Yes, ma'am, Geordie Greig, current editor of Condé Nast's society sheet Tatler. He's got everything needed for the job – he can even say 'gosh' without a trace of irony."

    M: "James, your country owes you a debt it can never repay."

    Bond: "You mean like the Royal Bank of Scotland, ma'am?"

Slow fade to black amid strains of There'll Always be an England.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff