By Ronald Grover
(Reuters) - One of the media industry's most influential investors, Gordon Crawford, intends to retire by the end of 2012 after more than four decades in the business, according to a person familiar with his decision.
Investors often look to the low-key but hard-hitting senior vice-president of Capital Research and Management Co in Los Angeles, which as of its latest filing owned $12.3 billion of media stock, as a financial bellwether.
Among his company's largest holdings are Time Warner Inc, News Corp, Comcast and DirecTV.
News of Crawford's retirement was unexpected.
Crawford believes after 41 years "it's just time" to step away, the source told Reuters in an email.
His departure will be most felt by the media moguls he counseled.
A regular at The Allen & Co summer retreat for media executives, Crawford counts Liberty Media chairman John Malone and internet company IAC chairman Barry Diller as friends.
Crawford's sale of nearly $1.9 billion of Capital's Walt Disney Co stock signaled the market's broader loss of confidence in then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner in 2001.
Crawford persuaded fishing buddy Ted Turner to sell Turner Broadcasting in 1996 to Time Warner, and in 2002 pressured AOL Time Warner chairman Steve Case into leaving the company after Capital lost more than $7 billion on its holdings.
A private person, Crawford rarely gives interviews. He made an exception in 2008, when he blasted then-Yahoo Inc CEO Jerry Yang for an "unrealistic" valuation for the company that drove away billionaire suitor Carl Icahn.
Capital owned 16 percent of Yahoo at the time.
Known to friends as "Gordy," he was the architect behind Lions Gate Entertainment's strategy of "rolling up" smaller studios, including its acquisition last year of Summit Entertainment, which produced the "Twilight" vampire movies.
Crawford sided with Lions Gate Entertainment management in 2010, voting Capital's 9.1 percent stake against Icahn's slate of directors as the billionaire investor attempted to wage a proxy battle against the independent studio.
The source did not specify Crawford's plans after retiring.
But the investor has recently devoted increasing time to public-interest causes. He is chairman of Southern California Public Radio and has recruited other media executives to its board. He is also vice-chairman of the Nature Conservancy.
Crawford has also begun investing in media companies on his own. In April, he joined a group that invested $128 million in Legendary Pictures, which produced "The Dark Knight" and other big-budget films for Warner Brothers.
Spokespeople for Capital were not available for comment.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Michael Perry)