Murdoch sells $40 million in News Corp. voting stock as price soars

Chairman Rupert Murdoch is taking advantage of the jump in value of News Corp. stock by selling $40 million in voting shares this week. Shares closed trading Friday at all-time highs.

A News Corp. spokesman declined to provide a reason for Murdoch's pre-Valentine's Day sale of nearly 1.4 million Class B shares. The sale, which occurred Wednesday, was recorded Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

News Corp.'s B shares, the voting stock, closed trading Friday at $29.34, up 1.3%. The more widely traded A shares, the non-voting stock, closed at $28.90, up 1.4%. Both were all-time highs. 

A year ago, News Corp.'s stock was trading for less than $19 a share. Plans unveiled last summer to cleave Murdoch's media empire into two parts sparked the rally.

Murdoch sold about $10 million shares of non-voting stock in November. At the time, sources indicated the 81-year-old mogul was divesting shares for estate-planning purposes. Wednesday's sale of voting stock, which fetched $28.72 a share, was more unusual because the Murdochs typically keep a firm grip on the voting shares.

However, this week's sale did not diminish the Murdoch family's control of News Corp. The family still holds more than 315 million shares of voting stock, keeping their level of control of the company intact at nearly 39%.

News Corp. plans to break into two separately traded companies later this year. The publishing assets -- including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Times of London and HarperCollins book publishing -- will make up the new News Corp. 

The more profitable television and film assets -- including Fox Broadcasting, FX, Fox News Channel and 20th Century Fox movie studio -- will comprise the new Fox Group.

Murdoch will be chairman and chief executive of the Fox Group and chairman of the slimmer News Corp.  Robert Thomson, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, will run the publishing company as CEO.


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