Hartwell share sale ends Telegraph link

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DAVID HELLIER

Conrad Black, the Canadian newspaper tycoon, increased his shareholding in the Telegraph group yesterday to more than 64 per cent by buying a 5 per cent shareholding previously owned by the Hartwell family, the previous owners of the newspaper, ending their financial link with the group.

One of Mr Black's companies, Holi, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hollinger, another of his companies, made the transaction at 450p a share, 30p above the market price.

The price was determined by an option agreement, made some time ago, which enabled the Hartwell family to sell out at a pre-arranged price.

The 450p price agreed with the Hartwells was perceived to set a benchmark price when Mr Black attempted to buy out all the other remaining shareholders in the Telegraph group earlier this year. The buyout plan was never put to shareholders when a committee of independent directors failed to come to an agreement with Mr Black over the price.

Lord Hartwell's father turned the Telegraph into the first serious newspaper to sell more than 1 million copies a day during the 1930s. But under the family's ownership the group had financial problems during the early 1980s.

Lord Hartwell, in effect, ceded control to Mr Black by giving him the option to take control of the newspaper if it was seen to need fresh capital.

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