View from City Road: Black's cheek is hard to beat

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You have to hand it to Conrad Black. For pure cheek, he takes some beating. Having sold a big chunk of his shares in the Telegraph at the top of the market just ahead of announcing a big cut in the cover price, he now proposes to buy back half of the stake at near the bottom.

In the process Hollinger, his Canadian holding company, will make a profit on the difference between the sale price and the likely purchase price of the 6.8 million shares - of around pounds 17m. The move is so audacious, so guaranteed further to inflame already irate City tempers, that it almost deserves congratulation.

Mr Black's main motivation in scooping up the shares is presumably to inspire the market with confidence in the Telegraph's future - and to do something for his battered share price in the process. The group's share price has been sadly depressed, limiting its versatility as a vehicle for Mr Black's relentless ambition. The Telegraph is by far the largest and most influential of Hollinger's investments. Its strength is the dominant source of vitality for the group.

Whether he succeeds will largely depend on the attitude of small investors. The Stock Exchange may have exonerated Mr Black of any wrongdoing, but the City has not forgiven him, as Cazenove's unprecedented resignation as the Telegraph's broker shows.

Without the help of Cazenove or its like, institutional investors, always wary of a group dominated by such an unfathomable and ambitious individual, are unlikely to want to assist Mr Black with his plans again for a very long time.

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