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FCC nominee Wheeler will divest holdings if confirmed

U.S. President Barack Obama (unseen) announces venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) at the Stat
U.S. President Barack Obama (unseen) announces venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) at the Stat

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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