Saturday 23 November 2019

What does the takeover really mean for Arsenal?

A sign outside the Arsenal club shop yesterday on the day Stan Kroenke confirmed his takeover of the club.
A sign outside the Arsenal club shop yesterday on the day Stan Kroenke confirmed his takeover of the club.

Mark Fleming

American billionaire Stan Kroenke yesterday took control of Arsenal, buying 62.89pc of the club after securing a deal to purchase the shares of Danny Fiszman (17pc) and Nina Bracewell-Smith (16pc).

He now needs to try to buy the remaining shares, owned by Russian steel magnate Alisher Usmanov, who maintains a 27pc stake.

Kroenke, who has been a shareholder for four years, underlined his support for Arsene Wenger yesterday, but there remain questions over the future -- immediate and long-term -- of the club.

Will he borrow large amounts and saddle the club with debt, like the Glazers at Man United?

Arsenal say no. In their statement, in which they recommend shareholders take up Kroenke's offer of £11,750 per share, the board said: "Kroenke Sports Enterprises has stated that the offer will not be funded by debt finance secured against the club."

Kroenke's deal values Arsenal at £731m, which means he has to find around £500m in cash if he is to buy up all the remaining shares. His fortune is estimated at £1.77bn so he is not short of cash. His firm KSE own the St Louis Rams NFL team, NBA basketball franchise the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche NHL ice hockey team and MLS side the Colorado Rapids.

Will Usmanov sell his shares?

Not just yet. He is reported to be furious that the other large shareholders were selling to Kroenke and was disappointed that the Arsenal board had recommended others did the same.

So, how has Kroenke gone from "wrong sort" to "safe custodian"?

When Kroenke first bought 9.9pc of the club in 2007, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood said of 'Silent Stan': "Call me old-fashioned but we don't need his money and don't need his sort. He knows sweet FA about our football."

Yesterday, Hill-Wood said: "We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its (Arsenal's) future," in reference to the man who has agreed to give him £4.7m for his 400 Arsenal shares.

Will the change of ownership make any real difference?

Not too much on the face of it. Arsenal have effectively been in foreign hands for the past four years, and nothing drastic has happened. And Usmanov still owns 27pc of the club and as such can prevent any major structural changes.

Kroenke will have power to appoint a new manager, or new directors. In his other sporting clubs, Kroenke has been a supportive owner, so it is unlikely he will sack Wenger. There will undoubtedly be changes. A more aggressive marketing strategy is likely, with a focus firmly on the Far East.

There will be money available to buy players, but that has been the case for years at Arsenal -- it's just that Wenger refuses to spend it. Kroenke is well aware of the Arsenal way of nurturing young talent and is not expected to start changing the club's transfer policy.

So will he be able to end six years without a trophy?

He certainly thinks so. Kroenke said yesterday: "Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger. We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success."

But he is no Roman Abramovich -- he is not about to plough his personal fortune into the club. His policy will be to allow Arsenal to continue with the self-sustaining strategy of the previous regime. Money, however, will be there for a couple of new players in the summer, and Kroenke does have an excellent record of delivering trophies. (© Independent News Service)

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