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Saturday 24 March 2018

Arsenal share sale opens door for new investor

Jeremy Wilson

A third billionaire investor might join the battle for control of Arsenal after Nina Bracewell-Smith put her 15.9pc stake in the club up for sale yesterday.

In a move that caused surprise among other prominent shareholders, Bracewell-Smith hired Blackstone, an alternative investment manager and financial adviser, to find a buyer for a slice of the club that has been in her family for the past three generations.

It had been widely assumed that Bracewell-Smith would be prepared to sell her stake, thought to be worth around £90m, since she was ousted from the board in December 2008, yet it is the choice of Blackstone which has raised eyebrows.

Having been a director for three years, Bracewell-Smith would have no need to use a broker and so pay commission if she intended to offer the stake to any shareholders, notably Stan Kroenke, who stands on the brink of the 30pc threshold that would prompt a compulsory bid for the club.

If Kroenke wanted to take control and push his way beyond 50pc he would be more likely to buy director Danny Fiszman's (16.1pc) stake and rely on the support of smaller shareholders for the last 4pc.

Alisher Usmanov has made it clear, privately, that he is happy with Red and White's holding of just over 26pc and would have little interest in Bracewell-Smith's shares when it would not deliver a controlling interest.

The choice of Blackstone, which has good links in China and the US, suggests that Bracewell-Smith is testing the global market to see if there is a third player.

Arsenal remain one of football's most marketable clubs in the world. They are also virtually guaranteed Champions League football next season and are still in contention for the league title.

They travel to Tottenham tomorrow when manager Arsene Wenger could bring Robin van Persie back into his squad for his first match since November. Tottenham's Niko Kranjcar will have a scan this week amid fears that he has suffered ankle ligament damage in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Portsmouth. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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