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Kerkorian sells rest of Ford shares

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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., the billionaire’s Beverly Hills-based investment company, confirmed Monday that it had dumped its remaining stock holdings in struggling Ford Motor Co. She 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.

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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.

But 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 about $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 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 block last year, Kerkorian sought to mount a buyout bid with the help of the automaker unions, but failed.

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 closed down 7 cents, about 3%, at $2.22.

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martin.zimmerman@latimes.com

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