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Frank Stronach sells large stake in Magna

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Frank Stronach, who held an iron grip on Magna International Inc. (MG-T) for more than three decades through multiple-voting shares, has sold off so much of his holding that he is no longer one of the largest shareholders in the auto parts giant.

Stronach has sold more than six million shares of Magna this month, slashing his stake to just one million shares and giving him a position considerably smaller than the institutions he battled with for years at Magna and two other publicly traded companies he controlled, MI Developments Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp.

The sale of 6.1 million shares in June at prices ranging from $45 US to $48.05 has given him slightly less than $300 million cash as he pursues new opportunities since resigning as chairman of Magna earlier this year. The sale of shares was revealed in filings with securities regulators.

He has been selling shares gradually since last fall when a controversial $863-million deal to buy out his multiple-voting shares in Magna was approved by regulators and the Ontario Superior Court.

He agreed to sell the multiple-voting shares back to Magna for $300 million in cash, nine million common shares and control of a joint venture with Magna that will develop electric vehicles. Since then, Magna has split its stock and increased its dividend.

In interviews before and after Magna’s annual meeting last month, Stronach noted that the electric vehicle business requires infusions of cash, in part because the costs of developing vehicles and components are so high.

The 78-year-old is less than 10 days away from cutting his ties with MI Developments, the company that owns the land under many of Magna’s auto parts plants and was the controlling shareholder of Magna Entertainment, a racetrack and gambling company that went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.

As part of the bankruptcy process, MI Developments picked up tracks in Florida and California, plus half of a joint venture that owned tracks in Maryland and other gambling and horse racing assets.

In a deal scheduled to close at the end of this month and similar to the Magna transaction,  Stronach will surrender his multiple-voting shares in MI Developments for that company’s interests in the tracks and horse racing assets.

Penn National Gaming Inc., the joint venture partner in the Maryland tracks, said last week that it has agreed to sell its interest in them to Stron-MJC LP, an entity controlled by Stronach.

In addition to the horse racing business and the electric vehicle venture, Stronach told The Globe and Mail last month that he plans to invest in several other businesses now that he is free of oversight from securities regulators and challenges from minority shareholders.

Among those ventures are organic beef farming, health care clinics and a business developing electric bicycles and boats that was started by his long-time colleague and former Magna senior executive Fred Gingl.

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