The founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Lam Shan-muk, has sold all his remaining shares at a time when the publication's editorial independence is under question.
In a news update on the Chinese-language daily's website yesterday afternoon, the newspaper confirmed Lam had sold his stake to an offshore trust company privately owned by telecoms tycoon Richard Li Tzar-kai.
It said Lam expressed satisfaction with the newspaper's operations and development, and would continue contributing commentaries to the newspaper.
Li bought 50 per cent of the Journal's shares in 2006 for HK$250 million. The move was seen as the first step in a planned incremental acquisition of an even bigger stake.
Under Lam's control it was known for its pro-democracy and pro-free-market stance. The paper has been accused of self-censorship in recent years after several of its columnists critical of the government complained the platform was not as liberal as before.
But Li maintains neither his acquisition nor Lam's decision to sell the remaining stakes will have any effect on the newspaper's editorial line.
"The purchase and sale has been a decision of the trust and its trustees," Li told the Post in a written reply. "The editorial policy has always rested with the editor," he wrote. "As far as I am concerned, I see no changes."
A spokeswoman for the newspaper said she had nothing to add.
On Monday, core supporters of Occupy Central and the newspaper's columnist for nine years, Edward Chin Chi-kin, blasted the Journal for making a "political decision" to axe his weekly column.
In March, Joseph Lian Yi-zheng, a former member of the Central Policy Unit and the newspaper's former chief editor who still contributes a commentary, accused the current chief editor of deleting part of his article without his approval.
"When he sold the HKEJ, Lam might have reached an agreement [with Li's trust company] to sell his shares gradually," Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said.
Choy added that, without knowing whether such an agreement existed, he would not speculate on whether Lam's decision to sell his shares now had anything to do with recent developments.
Cho Yan-chiu, a long-time columnist for the newspaper who owned about 5 per cent of its shares in 2006, could not be reached for comment on whether he still owns the shares.