The families behind a number of high-profile businesses have reorganised their shares recently, with the Fords transferring stock to family trusts and Rupert Murdoch selling some of his voting shares at News Corp. Meanwhile, the Piech family has gifted Volkswagen employees some of its voting rights.
Bill Ford, fourth-gen executive chairman of the eponymous carmaker, has transferred some of his class B voting stock into trusts set up for his children for estate and planning purposes.
A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission submitted in February detailed six transactions of class B voting shares made in early 2012. Ford acquired 18,808 and disposed of 9,396 shares. On the same date, Edsel Ford – a former vice-president – made an SEC filing for the transfer of 8,080 shares into a trust for his children.
The Ford family members are the only owners of the company's 70.8 million class B voting stock, accounting for 40% of the company's voting rights. These shares are not bought or sold but are given as gifts or traded between family members.
Bill currently owns approximately 12.8 million class B shares, both directly and through various trusts.
In New York, Rupert Murdoch – famous for the tight grip he keeps on New Corporation – recently made three separate sales of his family's shares in the media conglomerate.
On 22 February, Murdock submitted a filing to the SEC detailing the sale of one million class B voting shares worth $28.9 million (€22.2 million) in two separate transactions. It follows a sale earlier in the month of 1.4 million class B shares worth $40.1 million.
The sales reduce Murdoch's control by less than 1% – to 39.4% from 39.7%. The Murdoch family still owns 315 million voting shares at News Corp.
Murdoch has not given a reason for the sale, and a spokesman for the company declined to comment when approached by CampdenFB.
In Europe, the Piech and Porsche families – the controlling families of Volkswagen – recently transferred 2% of the company's voting shares to workers.
The shares have been placed in a private foundation and workers will exercise the voting rights by holding the majority of the seats on the foundation's board.
The two families – who are related to each other through Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the first VW Beetle – will also have seats on the board and the dividend from the shares will still be paid to the families.
Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen’s works council, said in a statement: "The foundation shows the cooperation between the [Piech and Porsche] families and Volkswagen employees. No decision can be forced with 2% of the voting rights, but at least the workers' wishes for the future of the company can be clearly visible at general meetings."
Elsewhere, Saputo – controlled by the eponymous family – announced on 19 February it had agreed a purchase of up to 1.2 million of its common shares from a third-party seller.
The shares will be purchased for cancellation, and will count towards the 9.9 million common shares Saputo has the right to purchase for cancellation under Canadian regulations. A share cancellation aims to increase the value of the company's remaining publicly traded shares. The purchase echoes a similar repurchase deal made on 12 December – also for 1.2 million common shares.
The deal is worth Can$59.2 million (€44 million) at the current share value, although Saputo said the sale would be negotiated at a discount. The deal is due to be concluded by 10 March.