WASHINGTON – General Motors' Corp.'s (GM) painful process of reinventing itself apparently will continue without Kirk Kerkorian, whose ownership of almost 10 percent of the world's largest automaker failed to become a lever for the changes he sought.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported in Friday's edition that the billionaire investor sold his entire remaining investment in GM — 28 million shares — at $29.95 a share, a transaction worth more than $800 million. The newspaper reported that the shares were sold to Bank of America, a key lender to Kerkorian..
Tracinda said last week it was reducing its stake to 42 million shares, or 7.4 percent of GM, from 56 million shares, or 9.9 percent.
Then on Thursday, Kerkorian's investment company, Tracinda Corp., said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had agreed to sell 14 million shares for $28.75 per share in a private transaction. The move dropped his stake to 28 million shares, for a price of just over $400 million. That sale was to close Friday.
Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy noted that there was a 28 million share block trade in GM stock on the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the filing Thursday.
"It appears that Kerkorian may now be out of his entire GM position," Murphy wrote in a research note.
Tracinda spokeswoman Carrie Bloom said she could not comment on the transaction beyond the SEC filing. GM spokeswoman Gina Proia said the company does not comment on the actions of its shareholders. Both declined further comment on the Journal report. A call to a Bank of America spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
GM shares dropped 27 cents to close at $29.23. Its shares have traded in a 52-week range of $18.33 to $36.56.
By reducing his stake to less than 5 percent, Tracinda no longer faced disclosure requirements for its intentions on GM. Kerkorian would be able to sell off his remaining shares without filing with the SEC.
As part of the announcement of the stock sale last week, Kerkorian's investment company said it offered to buy up to 15 million shares of casino and hotel operator MGM Mirage Inc., tightening its control of the company.
Tracinda's decision follows the resignation last month of Jerome York, a key Kerkorian adviser, from the GM board. York wrote that he had "grave reservations" about GM's ability to compete against Asian automakers.
York resigned shortly after GM decided against joining an alliance with Renault SA of France and Nissan Motor Corp. of Japan. The three companies began discussing a potential three-way alliance after public prodding by Tracinda.
GM has undertaken a massive turnaround plan, cutting production and reducing costs by winning health care concessions from the UAW and persuading about 35,000 hourly workers to leave under early retirement or buyout plans.
The investor's stock sale was reported even as GM announced it has completed a deal announced in April to sell a 51 percent stake in its finance unit, General Motors Acceptance Corp., to private investors for about $14 billion.
That was part of the automaker's plan to gain some financial flexibility as it struggles to compete. GM has lost more than $3 billion in the first nine months of the year, and is slashing its U.S. work force in an effort to cut costs.