7 Jul 2012

Rinehart reduces Fairfax stake

11:34 pm on 7 July 2012

Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, has sold $A50 million of stock in Fairfax Media taking her stake to just below 15%.

In recent weeks, Mrs Rinehart has mounted a high-profile campaign to win three seats on the Fairfax board after a large acquisition of shares last month left her with an 18.7% stake in the company.

However the publisher's chairman, Roger Corbett, told her Fairfax was unable to extend an invitation for her to join its board, the ABC reports

Mr Corbett said the mining billionaire's refusal to sign the company's charter of independence raised concerns she would interfere with the editorial independence of Fairfax's flagship newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Mrs Rinehart's private company Hancock Prospecting issued a statement saying the shares were sold to a major Australian fund manager, which the ABC reports is Perpetual.

The company said the chief reason for the sale was to reduce its stake to 15% to avoid potential problems associated with directors' insurance.

Hancock denied "unsubstantiated rumours spread by others" that it was about to make an offer for the Fairfax.

Mrs Rinehart is a strong critic of Australia's Labor government and its controversial mining and carbon taxes, and concerns about her seeking to influence editorial direction have sparked outrage from journalists, politicians and other shareholders.