Paul Foster, founder and executive chairman of Western Refining, sold more than $50 million of his still-large holdings of Western Refining stock last year and this month as part of a financial plan he implemented in late 2010, show documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Gerald Rubin -- founder, chief executive officer, president and chairman of Helen of Troy -- sold more than $21 million worth of his company shares in the past two months, including almost $2 million in the past two weeks, SEC documents show.
Rubin and his wife sold $4.5 million worth of stock in 2011. They also transferred more than 1 million shares worth $36.5 million to the company last year as part of a transaction to buy stock options and pay taxes on the options.
People track sales by executives inside a company because it may indicate a stock is under-valued or over-valued. But several stock market experts familiar with the companies said Rubin and Foster don't appear to be selling their shares in anticipation of falling stock prices.
The stock sales by both men "look benign," said Oscar Varela, a finance professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "They have large amounts of stock, and will retain large ownership interests."
Foster remains Western's largest shareholder. At the end of last year, 27 percent of the company's shares were owned by Foster and two Western Refining-tied entities mostly owned by him, according to data on the company's website.
Rubin held almost 8 percent of his company's stock at the end of last year, show data on Helen of Troy's website.
Rubin said his recent stock sales are for his financial diversification. "It's all for diversification," he said. "The company is doing very well, and we have sales over $1 billion."
"My major stockholders are institutions, and they are not unhappy. The stock is going up. The stock is doing good."
Helen of Troy makes and sells hair dryers, shampoos and other personal-care products under well-known brands, including Revlon, Vidal Sassoon, Sunbeam, Toni & Guy and Pert Plus. It also sells household gadgets under the Oxo brand and body thermometers, humidifiers and home fans under the Braun, Vicks and Honeywell brands.
Western Refining operates oil refineries in El Paso and near Gallup, N.M., and convenience stores in four states, including the Howdy's chain in El Paso.
Ron White, an investment adviser at Raymond James Financial Services in El Paso, said the large stock sales aren't hurting the stock performance of either company.
Helen of Troy's stock closed at $33.27 per share Friday --above a year ago when it was trading at $28.62 per share.
Western Refining's stock closed at $18.34 per share Friday -- above a year ago when it was trading at $15.37 per share.
Foster was not available for comments last week on his stock sales.
Foster put together a personal financial plan in late 2010 that included a stock sales plan filed with the SEC. The sales plan called for selling up to 3.1 million of his company shares last year. The plan was extended this year to sell up to 3 million more shares through June 22, a SEC document shows.
The sales plan calls for managed sales of Foster's shares by Goldman Sachs & Co. He has no control over when the shares are sold, Gary Hanson, a Western Refining spokesman, reported when the plan was initiated last year.
Allen Good, an analyst who follows Western Refining for Morningstar, a Chicago investment research firm, said Foster's sales are no cause for alarm because he filed a sales plan.
"If he came out and one day sold a bunch of shares, it would be different," Good said.
White, the El Paso financial adviser, said, "Based on Rubin's record, I would not be concerned about it (stock sales)."
Rubin has sold large amounts of Helen of Troy stock in the past and the stock continued to rise, White said.
"Foster has a financial plan and is selling stock at various times," White said.
"These people have built fortunes" by accumulating their company stock, and now need to diversify their holdings to lessen their financial risks, White said.
Varela, the UTEP professor, said executives sell their company shares for various reasons, including to get cash.
"You don't want to have all your stock only in the company you work for," Varela said. That puts the person at unnecessary financial risk, he said.