Kirk says goodbye to Ford

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Turns out Kirk Kerkorian wasn’t kidding when he said he was putting the brakes on his latest foray into the auto industry.

A spokeswoman for Tracinda Corp., Kerkorian’s Beverly Hills-based investment company, confirmed today that it had dumped its remaining stock holdings in struggling Ford Motor Co.

The spokeswoman declined to provide details of the stock sales.

Kerkorian owned 107.1 million Ford shares, or 4.9% of the company in late October, when Tracinda reported in a regulatory filing that it had unloaded 7.3 million shares and planned to sell the rest of its holdings by the end of the year.

Because it owned less than 5% of the company -- the regulatory threshold for reporting changes in stock ownership -- Tracinda was not required to file information with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the more recent sales, such as when the shares were sold or at what price.


However, Kerkorian, who began buying Ford shares in April and spent about $1 billion acquiring a 6.5% stake in the automaker, clearly took a bath on the investment.

Ford was trading at around $7.75 a share when Kerkorian began acquiring his stake. The average price since his last SEC filing in late October: $2.33 a share.

Kerkorian, 91, has had a long, if not always profitable, relationship with Detroit. He was the largest shareholder in Chrysler before it was sold to Daimler-Benz in the late 1990s. In 2006, he bought a 9.9% stake in General Motors Corp. and tried to use the resulting leverage in an unsuccessful effort to force GM into a relationship with Nissan-Renault.

And when Daimler put Chrysler on the auction block last year, Kerkorian tried but failed to mount a buyout bid with the help of the automakers’ unions.

Although Ford is considered to be in better shape than GM or Chrysler -- unlike those two, it has yet to formally request a financial handout from Washington -- the company is burning through cash at an alarming rate as auto sales plunge in the U.S. and abroad.

Ford shares lost 7 cents to $2.22 today. The stock is down 67% this year.

-- Martin Zimmerman