Companies controlled by Carl Lindner, a Cincinnati financier involved in a series of controversial takeover attempts, have purchased 8.3 percent of Gulf & Western Industries Inc., it was disclosed late yesterday.

Lindner's American Financial Corp. and several of its affiliates have invested more than $74 million in Gulf & Western stock, warrants, debentures and options.

In a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lindner said the purchases were made "as an investment."

American Financial Corp. and its subsidiaries "have no present intention of acquiring control" of Gulf & Western or of seeking a merger or other deal with the company, the report said.

The report disclosing Lindner's multimillion-dollar investment in Gulf & Western was filed just as the SEC's public reference room was closing last night and at the same time that Gulf 3/4 Western's shareholders were meeting in Phoenix.

Lindner is reportedly a long-time friend of Gulf & Western Chairman Charles Bluhdorn.

Trading in Gulf & Western stock has been heavy for several weeks, and American Financial's interest in the stock was well-known on Wall Street. American Financial has been a major shareholder in Gulf & Western for some time, but the extent of the investments by Lindner's firms was something of a surprise.

According to the report of the SEC, Lindner owns 1.265 million shares of Gulf & Western stock directly. In addition, he owns $47 million worth of Gulf & Western debentures, which could be converted into common stock, plus other options and warrants enabling him to buy additional shares.

If all of Lindner's options were used, he would control 3.9 million shares of Gulf & Western. The shares closed yesterday at $17.75, down 75 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Lindner also has been a recent target of SEC investigators.Last July he aggreed to repay $1.4 million to American Financial as part of the settlement of SEC charges that he received favorable financial treatment from the company and failed to report it to stockholders.

American Financial owns insurance companies, a savings and loan association and computer leasing firms and is a major shareholder in Combined Communications Corp., Fairmont Foods Co., United Brands Co. and National Convenience Stores Inc.

In approving the merger of Combined -- owner of several TV stations -- with the Gannett newspaper chain last July, the Federal Communications Commission ordered Lindner and American Financial not to take an active role in Gannett's management.

American Financial also was once a major stockholder of Washington-based Government Employees Insurance Co. and its affiliates. In 1977, Geico paid $30 million to buy from American Financial shares in Government Employees Life Insurance Co., Criterion Insurance Co. and Government Employees Financial Corp.