Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed sells stake in Murdoch's 21st Century Fox

Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed sells stake in Murdoch's 21st Century Fox
Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, who was arrested in last week's corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia, has quietly sold off his $1.5 billion stake in Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.
2 min read
09 November, 2017
Business tycoon Prince al-Waleed has been a long-time ally of the Murdochs [Getty]
Saudi tycoon Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has sold his $1.5 billion stake in 21st Century Fox, breaking ties with Rupert Murdoch and leaving the media family's grip on the company vulnerable to restless shareholders.

The Saudi royal and billionaire investor, who was among the high-profile arrests in the kingdom's so-called anti-corruption sweep on Saturday, acquired a stake in Murdoch's News Corp., Fox's predecessor, in 1997 and publicly backed the Murdoch family's running of the company amid phone-hacking revelations in 2011.

Prince al-Waleed at once stage owned more than six percent of Fox. Regulatory filings in New York show the businessman reduced his stake to 4.98 percent in December 2015, and an analysis of Bloomberg data shows the stake has fallen to zero since the end of the last financial quarter on September 30.

It is not clear why he sold the stake or to whom.

As a global media investor he has been a key ally of the Murdochs and helped them see off shareholder protests over their dominance of Fox and its strategy.

The family control 39 percent of the voting rights in Fox despite only holding a 17 percent financial stake, thanks to the company’s controversial two-tier stock structure.

Prince Al-Waleed's vote had tipped the balance of power further in the Murdochs' favour.

News of his exit comes as Fox prepares for its annual shareholder meeting next week. The AGM will be asked to vote on a hostile shareholder resolution to get rid of the company's dual class voting structure, where almost 70 percent of the shares on issue don't get a vote.

Depending on when Prince al-Waleed sold the shares, he may still have voting rights. The deadline for proxy vote arrangements was September 18. If Prince al-Waleed sold after that date, he could still vote in the Murdochs' favour a final time.