In a week that saw more than its share of volatility some top insiders decided it was time to lighten up on their holdings. As we have mentioned in the past, selling by insiders, especially those at the highest C suite levels of a company, don’t necessarily mean things have gone bad at the company. That is especially so when the stock market has been printing all-time highs for the past month.
The 24/7 insider stock selling screens have tallied not only some large sales this week, but some high-profile sellers makings those transactions.
CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) may be in the best position of all the broadcast networks and is one of the top picks on Wall Street. That didn’t stop the CEO and president of the venerable broadcaster from hitting the bid with a substantial amount of stock. Leslie Moonves rang the register, selling a total of 375,000 shares of stock he owned via an option exercise at $28.50 per share. He sold stock at prices ranging from $63.22 to $64.83. This huge sale of stock brought in the very tidy gross sum of $23,892,888.
Despite the huge sale, Moonves would still hold more than 900,000 shares of CBS stock, according to data from Yahoo! Finance. It would seem as though this should hardly be looked at as an exodus. CBS closed trading Friday at $61.35.
Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH) also saw a very highly placed executive step up to the sell window this past week. CEO James J. O’Brien sold a total of 130,603 shares at $108.14 per share. He saw total proceeds from the sale of $14,123, 408. According to data from Yahoo! Finance, O’Brien also sold an additional 30,330 shares this week for an added $3,294,000. Ashland shares ended trading Friday at $107.47.
Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) is another blue-chip name that had a high level executive put a large chunk to sell on the tape. Robert Fraley, an executive VP and the chief technology officer, sold a whopping 54,740 shares at $125.32 to realize a very nice gross total of $6.86 million. Monsanto shares ended the week at $120.90, which makes it look like a very timely sale indeed.
Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) saw a very sizable sale when Mirian Graddick-Weir decided it was time to sell shares. She hit the bid to the tune of 180,047 shares at $59.16 per share. The gross proceeds were a very tidy $10,650,932. Dr. Graddick-Weir is the Executive VP of Human Resources at the pharmaceutical giant. A disposal of almost 10,000 shares from chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier seems too small to elaborate on in comparison. Merck shares settled at $58.44 to end the week.
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) wraps up this week’s insider selling list. The stock has been one of the most disappointing tech IPO disasters in years. Debuting in 2012 at $10, the stock has traded in the single digits for over two years now. That didn’t stop the CEO Donald Mattrick from selling a large chunk of stock this week. He shed a total of 2,145,315 shares at $3.02 for a stellar payday of $6,478,851. Zynga, which has yet to follow up its Facebook Farmville success, closed trading Friday at $3.24.
Nothing to get some big sales going like a market at all-time highs. While many of these sales represented huge windfalls, most of these corporate executives continue to hold stock. So a diversification is not without logic.