Citadel To Slash E*Trade Stake By Two-Thirds

Aug 14 2009 | 12:10pm ET

Citadel Investment Group, two-time savior of troubled online brokerage E*Trade Financial, is stepping back.

The Chicago-based alternative investments giant is slashing its stake in E*Trade by more than two-thirds, it said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Citadel, E*Trade’s largest shareholder with a 14.9% stake, plans to sell shares under an insider stock-trading plan, putting some on the block every day until the end of October.

Already, the firm has shed nearly 40 million of its once 166 million-strong holdings of E*Trade stock. When all is said and done, Citadel hopes to slash its stake to just 4.1%, still likely enough to remain the firm’s largest shareholder.

Under the stock-trading plan, Citadel said it will not sell any shares for less than $1.20. The stock was trading at $1.30 at midday today.

Citadel remains a major debtor of E*Trade, and, despite the smaller stake, firm founder Kenneth Griffin will remain on E*Trade’s board of directors.

Meanwhile, Citadel is upping its stake in another troubled company, UAL Corp., the parent of United Air Lines. The hedge fund increased its holdings of UAL nearly eightfold in the second quarter, and now owns 4.85% of the airline.

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