Longtime Murdoch Ally, Saudi Prince Dumps $1.5B Worth of Fox Shares

Prince Alwaleed is a close ally to Rupert Murdoch. He invested $400 million in News Corp in 1997. Getty Images

Between 21st Century Fox’s quarterly report and annual investor meeting, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who was detained earlier this week over corruption charges, sold all of his 21st Century Fox shares totaling $1.5 billion, according to multiple reports.

Bloomberg data shows he now owns zero percent of 21th Century Fox.

The trading was performed through Kingdom Holding Company, the investment vehicle of which Prince Alwaleed owns 95 percent.

Prince Alwaleed was arrested on Saturday along with dozens of royal members, government officials and prominent business figures in an anti-corruption campaign ordered by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the first heir to King Salman in Saudi Arabia.

With Prince Alwaleed’s assets likely to have been frozen after the arrest, it’s unclear who performed the trading and when.

Prince Alwaleed is a close ally to Rupert Murdoch, who owns 21st Century Fox. In 1997, he purchased $400 million of non-voting stocks, or three percent, of Murdoch’s News Corporation, the parent company of 21st Century Fox until 2013. Alwaleed invested another $200 million in 1999.

When News Corporation acquired Fox Entertainment—now an asset of 21st Century Fox—in 2005, Prince Alwaleed’s three percent non-voting shares were converted to a 5.5 percent share of News Corporation with voting rights.   

Deadline Hollywood Daily estimates Prince Alwaleed has owned up to six percent of 21st Century Fox. He reduced the stake to 4.98 percent in December 2015.

CEO of Kingdom Holding Company, Eng. Talal Ibrahim Al Maiman, called the detention “business as usual” in a short statement on Sunday. He said the company’s strategy and operation will remain intact.

Since Prince Alwaleed’s arrest on Saturday, Kingdom Holding has put up two CEO statements relating to the matter on the company website. The latest statement published on Monday reassuring the company’s business strength is now highlighted in a pop-up window when the website loads.

21st Century Fox reported a $855 million operating profit in the last financial quarter, beating Wall Street expectations. Co-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch and CEO James Murdoch didn’t mention the ownership change during yesterday’s investor call.

Longtime Murdoch Ally, Saudi Prince Dumps $1.5B Worth of Fox Shares