Mining mogul Gina Rinehart on Thursday reduced her stake in ailing Australian media firm Fairfax, offloading Aus$50.1 million in shares following a row over board influence and editorial independence.
Rinehart, the world's richest woman with assets worth Aus$29.17 billion (US$29.96 billion), scaled back her holding from just under 19 to 15 percent, a week after giving the chairman an ultimatum to reverse the firm's fortunes.
Her iron ore company, Hancock Prospecting, said the share sale was to a "major Australian fund manager".
It followed concerns from chairman Roger Corbett over a director of the firm holding more than 15 percent of shares.
Corbett's concerns were linked to a policy protecting directors from being sued. Shareholders with a stake greater than 15 percent have the power to sue directors.
"This was one of the key issues recently raised by the chairman of Fairfax and needed to be resolved by either the chairman authorising endeavours to raise the 15 percent limiter... or by sale of shares so that the largest shareholder had less than 15 percent," Hancock said.
"Given the chairman did not undertake the former we have taken the latter and sold in a single tranche to minimise any market impact."
Rinehart's Hancock also denied "unsubstantiated rumours spread by others that we are about to make an offer for the company".
"We have previously stated we are not seeking control of Fairfax, just the appointment of two directors plus an independent out of up to 12 directors on the board," it said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Rinehart, who has been locked in a bitter tussle with Corbett and Fairfax over board influence and her refusal to sign the media company's charter of editorial independence, is still the group's largest shareholder.
She upped the pressure Thursday on Corbett, who snubbed her push for three board seats last month, with Hancock saying it continued to "monitor the performance" of its investment in Fairfax.
The mining company noted "that the shares are trading at record or near record lows, which is an independent assessment of the chairman's performance".
"We again urge the chairman to tell concerned shareholders that he will accept proposed milestones regarding his performance in the interests of Fairfax and its shareholders, or propose other reasonable KPIs (key performance indicators) to meet for the continuance of his chairmanship past the AGM in November 2012," Hancock said.
Rinehart last week called on Corbett to quit by November if he was unable to turn around Fairfax's five-year decline in paid circulation and revenue from its flagship daily newspapers.
The company recently announced 1,900 job cut as part of a radical digital-focused restructure as it grapples with the challenges of audiences and advertisers migrating online.