NEW YORK — Mexican billionaire investor Carlos Slim Helú has sold 1.5 million shares of Saks Inc., bringing his stake in the luxury retailer down to 25 million shares.

This story first appeared in the August 24, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

At 25 million shares, he still owns 16.5 percent of Saks.

Shares of Saks Inc. closed at $11.66 Thursday in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. At 25 million shares, Slim’s Saks holding is worth $291.5 million.

The series of share sales took place on Monday and Tuesday, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday. The disposed shares totaled $17.8 million, or an average per-share price of $11.75.

With a 16.5 percent stake, based on Saks’ total diluted shares outstanding of 151.2 million as of July 28, Slim is still Saks’ single-largest shareholder. That puts him ahead of Diego Della Valle, Tod’s SpA chairman and chief executive officer. Della Valle’s stake totals 22.7 million shares, or 15 percent.

For awhile, the two had been in a pattern where one buys up Saks shares to leapfrog over the other as the top direct holder, only to have the other come back and take over the lead. That buying pattern contributed to speculation that a takeover of Saks might be in the works, although neither one has said he wanted control of the luxury chain.

The shares were acquired by Slim through his Mexican trust Inmobiliaria Carso SA de CV. Slim family members are beneficiaries of the trust. He last acquired 876,000 shares of Saks in a series of purchases over a two-day period in August 2011, two days after the retailer posted second-quarter results that showed reduced losses.

This time Slim’s stock sales came a week after the chain posted a second-quarter net loss of $12.3 million, or 8 cents a diluted share, although the loss was smaller and the sales gain larger than expected.

Stephen I. Sadove, Saks’ chairman and ceo, said a week ago following the earnings release that the luxury customer is healthy and spending has held up, although “it’s not as robust as a year ago.”

Women’s designer apparel was the letdown for the quarter as traditional styles and classic brands didn’t sell as well as contemporary lines.

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