In May of 2011, a sort of palace coup was engineered at the Emirates with the two remaining substantial shareholdings of Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith going to Stan Kroenke and in effect Kroenke was anointed the new “emperor” of Arsenal Football Club. Except the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov refused to play ball and increased his holding in the club too!
Usmanov’s holding of just under 30% is a nuisance to Kroenke as this prevents him from passing special resolutions and doing whatever he wants with the club. The Russian’s shareholding should entitle him to a seat or two on the board of the club, but such is the animosity towards Usmanov from the club’s old hierarchy that they would rather the club collapsed before affording this courtesy.
So where does this leave Arsenal? Kroenke has wealth, but the sort that will result in him writing blank cheques for an Arsenal manager to spend on players. Kroenke has many sporting interests in America which means he will not get involved in the day to day running of the club nor will he sanction major transfers. In effect Kroenke is running the club by remote, by Skype! This at a time when Arsenal’s position as a top 7 club is being threatened. Whilst other clubs have active hands-on owners / chairmen, Arsenal is being run like a major corporation with budgets set for wages and transfers, and regardless of the change in circumstances we will keep to those budgets.
Football is not like a “normal” business. Unless a club spends big in the transfer market it will not attract top players and without top players trophies cease to arrive. Take a look at Wenger’s early years, top players came to the club, not top potential, top players and trophies followed, now look at the last 6 years, we have brought in potential every year and with that we have achieved nothing. The model needs to change, but the board are powerless to authorise a change in this model as the owner is happy with our financial results!
The club is at a major crossroads and the ownership of the club will determine whether we enter many more years of trophyless seasons or the trophies and top players start to come back. The continued ownership of Kroenke will see Wenger rule the roost at the Emirates, a frugal approach to the transfer window and many promises of potential followed by seasons of disappointment. This in effect is the ghost of Arsenal seasons to come, but these can be changed. Kroenke can sell his stake to Usmanov in the summer for a very good profit and then we enter into a completely new ball game.
Whether David Dein re-joins the board is another matter, but Usmanov will not only give Wenger a very large transfer budget, he will insist that he uses it. Usmanov will explain to Wenger that the club needs to win trophies and if that means breaking the bank to bring in top players like Goetze or Hazard, then we MUST do this. He will also explain to Wenger that UEFA Financial Fair Play rules are null and void. There are too many big clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and PSG too name but a few who are too big for UEFA to take any sanctions against. In no uncertain terms Wenger will be told to spend to win trophies, for 6 season operation youth development has failed, and now is the time for change.
These are the options faced by our club, more of the same under Kroenke or a dash for gold under Usmanov.
It’s now or never for Arsenal Football Club. Stan Kroenke has been mopping up small shareholdings over the last couple of weeks to raise his share in the club to 29.8%. He is a fraction below the mandatory bid figure of 29.9%.
It was rumoured that he bought 100 shares from Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood; this is the same man who famously said, “We do not need his sort at this club.” Hill-Wood has since been turned by Silent Stan and went as far as saying he would welcome a bid fro the club by Stan Kroenke, for which he got his knuckles rapped by the city Takeover Panel.
At the club’s AGM when asked about a possible takeover, Stan Kroenke remained silent on the matter, any comment would have meant he would be precluded fro many takeover for six months.
Any takeover of the club, and it is now becoming inevitable will hinge upon the three major shareholders, Danny Fiszman who has sold shares to Kroenke in the past and allegedly not been paid for tem), Alisher Usmanov who bought his shares from David Dein and finally Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who was sacked from the board last year but has recently been seen in the directors box.
Arsenal fans want something to happen, but not at any cost. What we do not wish to see is Kroenke’s company land Arsenal plc with the debt of him buying the club. If we can have assurances that this will not happen, then Kroenke will be a good owner for Arsenal, and we know that he gets on well with Gazidis who is slowly changing things behind the scene.
There have been several reports recently that Alisher Usmanov will announce any day now that he has acquired Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s 15.6% share in Arsenal. This will take Usmanov’s holding to over 40%, resulting in him being obliged to make a formal offer for the club.
The Board, namely Peter Hill-Wood will make statements to the effect that the club is not for sale, despite the fact the Hill-Wood sold his shares in Arsenal many years ago to David Dein! Danny Fiszman will also resist the lure of Usmanov as it will see the return to the club of his nemesis David Dein.
The real kingmaker is new board member Stan Kroenke. Kroenke has built a stake up approaching the crucial 29.9% mark, mostly through the sale of shares for fellow board members Fiszman and the Carr brothers. Significantly, Kroenke is not subject to the “lock-down” agreement that the other board members have signed up to.
Kroenke stake in the club is primarily to make a profit and if Usmanov offers him a premium he will accept the price and sell his shares. Kroenke is not a long-term investor in the club.
The takeover of the club is what Arsenal needs; we need one person to be the powerbroker, one person who will drive the club forward. At the moment we have too many people with different agendas.
Many fans will fear the Usmanov will saddle the club with debt in the same way as the Glazers did at Manchester United and Hicks and Gillett did at Liverpool. I doubt this will be the case. This is man who offered to pay-off the club’s £100million debt in return for a larger stake in the club only to have this idea turned down by the board.
Usmanov will bring back to the club Mr Arsenal – David Dein. This will be the perfect move as Dein ensured that Wenger got his transfer targets, we would have bought Hangeland, Chamakh and Matuidi had Dein been at the club in the summer.
If Usmanov is successful in taking over the club, I hope he has the foresight to retain the services of Ivan Gazidis who is taking Arsenal forward in the commercial and marketing spheres.
Arsenal Football Club needs one owner and that man is Alisher Usmanov.
Earlier this week the sage of the financial world Alex Ferguson made a pronouncement on the financial situation at Arsenal. His claim was that Arsene had very little money to spend and it will be tough for Arsenal this season.
This comes from the club who are £800million in debt and have annual interest payments of £45million. This year Ferguson sold Ronaldo for £80million and has spent £19million on players. The Glazers need to not only service the interest payments, but will also be required to repay the debt. The Glazers have already increased season ticket prices at Old Trafford, now it is the time for the playing staff to be attacked.
Despite knowing for two years what the asking price for Tevez was, United were reluctant to meet the £25million fee as that would have eaten into the money required by the Glazers. The spin coming out of Old Trafford is that there are not players out there who want to fight for United, so Fergie is not buying anyone. Tevez certainly used to fight or United, but he would have cost money and if it is a case of fighters, I have not seen any fight from Berbatov.
Clearly United are undergoing a financial squeeze and Fergie wants to deflect attention away from United and on to Arsenal.
Arsenal have debt and that is well known. Our debt is broken into two elements, the £135milion used to develop Highbury and the £232million used to build the Emirates. It is the first of these loans that is concerning the club and the directors are trying to renegotiate a loan extension as the housing market has collapsed and the club will find it difficult to pay this loan by April 2010. Our annual interest payment is £17million, whilst our profits before interest is £48million. This is adequate cover and does not in any way necessitate Wenger having to sell players to finance the interest payments.
The press have not yet looked into the United finances and the fact that Fergie has not spent the transfer fee received from Ronaldo, but if they dig a little they will find a club in deep financial quagmire.