Monday 22 January 2018

Gunners target for mega-bid

Jason Burt

A Middle-East consortium is poised to make a £1.5 billion takeover bid for Arsenal within the next few weeks.

The world's biggest ever bid for a football club, dwarfing the £800m paid by the Glazers for Manchester United, will be backed by funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The group do not want their identities made public yet but a bid source revealed the intention is to buy out Arsenal's American owner, Stan Kroenke, whose perceived weak stewardship of the club has also been called into question by frustrated supporter groups.

The cash offer, which is more than twice the amount at which Arsenal were valued two years ago, will be for 100 per cent of the club, and if successful would wipe out debts that stand at around £250m according to the last full year's financial results.

According to a bid source, there would be substantial transfer funds made available to transform the club into a major force in European and world football. There would also be a pledge to reduce ticket prices at the Emirates Stadium – currently among the highest in the world – as well as an attempt to recreate "some of the feel of the old North Bank" at Highbury.

The bid team has noted the damage caused by Kroenke, who owns two-thirds of the club, refusing to engage with Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who owns 29.96 per cent. The bidders would like to unite the ownership, putting all the shares together in one fund.

The offer will be for the full 62,217 shares which have been issued, but effectively it will be to buy out Kroenke, in the first instance, paying around £830m for his 66.83 per cent shareholding (41,581). The offer equates to around £20,000 per share.

The deal would provide the American with an approximate profit of £400m given the majority owner is believed to have paid around £430m to build his stake in the club since he first became involved in 2007. When Kroenke made his mandatory cash offer for Arsenal in April 2011, buying up the stakes owned by Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, it valued the club at £731m.

A meeting has already been requested with the American to discuss the proposed offer. The seriousness of the bid is reinforced by the recent successful takeovers of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

It is unlikely Usmanov will want to sell his shareholding, given his "dream" of taking control of Arsenal himself, but the consortium believes it will be able to work with the billionaire, who does not currently have a seat on the board.

Any takeover would inevitably raise questions over the future of manager Arsene Wenger, although the Frenchman is understood to be highly-regarded by the consortium.

Arsenal travel today to north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur with the club embroiled in a desperate fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League and qualify for next season's Champions League. Arsenal currently lie in fifth place, four points behind their neighbours.

Despite protestations to the contrary, failure to qualify for the Champions League would have ramifications for Arsenal, who have been in Europe's premier club competition for the past 16 years under Wenger.

A bid source said last night: "Arsenal is at a pivotal position at the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like Liverpool. From our point of view, it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club. We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get this kind of valuation ever again." Telegraph

Irish Independent

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