Posted by: David Kiley on December 29, 2008
DETROIT—Billionaire financier Kirk Kerkorian has sold the remainder of his investment in Ford Motor Co.
Tracinda, which briefly ranked as Ford’s largest outside investor earlier this year, said in a regulatory filing in October that it had begun working with bankers to sell the 133.5 million shares of the No. 2 U.S. automaker it still held at that time. A spokesman confirmed Monday that the entire stake had been sold.
Kerkorian’s decision to pull out stemmed from a combination of Ford’s collapsing stock price, as well as his own financial needs brought about by the stock market meltdown and the financier’s investments in other companies.
At its peak, Kerkorian held a 6.5 percent stake in Ford and had offered in June to support the automaker’s turnaround efforts with an infusion of additional capital. In late October, Tracinda began selling Ford shares at $2.43, representing a loss of almost 66 percent from what the fund paid on average. Since then, Ford’s shares have traded between a low of $1.02 in November to a high of $3.54 earlier this month.
Kerkorian received a $600 million loan earlier this year from Bank of America for which he pledged 50 million shares of MGM Mirage, or about one-third of Tracinda’s holdings. Since his loan, MGM shares have sunk to below $13 from $53. Kerkorian last October had to pledge an additional 50 million shares as collateral for bank loans.
Kerkorian has long had an affinity for auto companies. Kerkorian, 91, previously held a nearly 10-percent stake in General Motors Corp (NYSE:GM - News) and made a failed bid for Chrysler LLC last year. His investment group held a stake in Chrysler in the mid 1990s. He tried to mount a takeover with former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca. He held a board seat at Chrysler at the time the company was sold to Daimler-Benz, and he later sued the company for misrepresenting the conditions and terms of the acquisition.
Kerkorian surprised analysts and investors in April when he began buying Ford shares and spent over $1 billion to take a stake in Ford at an average price per share of $7.10. His potential influence at the company was always a question because the Ford family, while holding just under 3 percent of the automaker’s shares, controls 40 percent of the voting power through a separate class of shares.