Beam is set to be acquired by Japanese group Suntory

Beam is set to be acquired by Japanese group Suntory

Beam Inc has seen its former biggest shareholder significantly reduce his stake in the group, following news of a planned takeover by Japanese firm Suntory Holdings.

Bill Ackman, founder of activist hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, sold 7.3m shares in the Jim Beam producer late last week, according to an SEC filing released to the New York Stock Exchange. On Thursday, Ackman's group sold 6m common stock shares at $83.28 and on Friday, 1.3m common stock shares at $83.36. 

Pershing Square, which was Beam's biggest shareholder at the end of its third quarter, now owns 8.3% of the Illinois-headquartered group's outstanding shares. 

Beam's share price rose sharply earlier this month, after Suntory announced that it had agreed a US$16bn deal to acquire the Maker's Mark and Laphroaig producer. The purchase, which is expected to complete by the end of June, will earn Beam shareholders $83.50 per share.

The move is facing legal action from Beam shareholders over allegations that the deal has been mishandled. Beam denies the claims.