FCC nominee Wheeler will divest holdings if confirmed

WASHINGTON Fri May 17, 2013 4:11pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama (unseen) announces venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama (unseen) announces venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, May 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tom Wheeler, nominated to become the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, pledged to divest stakes in AT&T Inc, Dish Network Corp, Google Inc and dozens of other tech and telecoms companies if he is confirmed.

Divestments are common for nominees to avoid conflicts of interest. Wheeler's plan was disclosed in an agreement posted online by the Office of Government Ethics.

Wheeler is now a venture capital investor at Core Capital Partners and chairs the FCC's Technology Advisory Council. In the past, he ran the National Cable Television Association and then the wireless industry group CTIA.

Within 90 days of being confirmed by the Senate as FCC chairman, Wheeler plans to leave his investment company and divest holdings in 78 companies. The investments include Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, China Mobile Ltd, tactical radio maker Harris Corp, Windstream Corp and media companies Liberty Media Corp, News Corp, Time Warner Inc and Time Warner Cable Inc.

Wheeler will also drop investments in the four biggest U.S. wireless operators: Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp and Deutsche Telecom AG, which owns T-Mobile.

Most of his shareholdings in each company were valued at less than $15,000. However, documents showed his stakes in AT&T and Verizon were worth between $500,000 and $1 million.

"I will divest these assets within 90 days of my confirmation and will invest the proceeds in non-conflicting assets," Wheeler wrote.

He also pledged that, until he is divested, he will not "participate personally and substantially" on any matter that might have a direct effect on those financial interests.

Wheeler will also resign as board chairman at SmartBrief Inc, an online news service he co-founded, and as a board member at Internet company EarthLink Inc. He will also quit other positions he has at various organizations and foundations, including the Foundation for the National Archives.

The Senate has yet to schedule confirmation hearings for Wheeler. Friday is the last day for current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is joining the Aspen Institute think tank.

Senior Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will take over as acting FCC chief until Wheeler's confirmation.

President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a new Republican commissioner to replace Robert McDowell, who has also left the agency.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by John Wallace and Andre Grenon)

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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