What a turbulent week, Wenger throws away a line about Real Madrid and suddenly we felt like the roof hade caved in on our little world. Everyone came out in support of Wenger.
Hill-Wood came out like the proud rooster, strutting his stuff about how disgraceful those shareholders were and how dare they question a man like Wenger. This is typical of our board looking down at people, even when those people own part of the club.
Ivan Gazidis kept quiet on the matter until Thursday, when he said, “Arsene made Arsenal what they are today, and the fans understand it perfectly,” he said. “If he was to leave tomorrow, he would do it with his head up, not by the back door.”
It is no coincidence that Gazidis remained quiet on the matter until the press reported that both Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov spoke to Arsene Wenger. The intrigue here why would these two men, one a non-executive director and the other not even on the board speak to Wenger and what will they be speaking to him about?
We know that Gazidis is friendly with Kroenke and Kroenke hinted at a sizeable “war chest” for Wenger recently, which is not exactly what the board led Wenger to believe he had to spend. We also know that Usmanov has offered to put at Wenger’s disposal £100 million by paying off part of the club loan.
Now we hear that Wenger has a war chest that is sizeable. Is this all a coincidence? This is clearly the new board members, Gazidis-Kroenke bouncing both Hill-Wood and Fiszman into providing Wenger with the money he really needs to strengthen the squad.
Clearly the old board is the proverbial lame-duck and the sooner they relinquish the reigns the sooner and faster the club will move ahead.
Stan Kroenke has increased his stake to become the biggest single shareholder in Arsenal Football Club. Kroenke increased his stake in the club to 28.3 per cent by buying 4,839 shares from members of the Carr family, including fellow director Richard Carr
Kroenke has come a long way since acquiring a 9.9% stake in the club which resulted in David Dein being sacked from the board. We then had the acrimonious and vitriolic statements of our chairman, Peter Hill-Wood. Then the eventual climb-down and invitation from the board for Kroenke to become a board member.
Now Stan Kroenke is in pole position to mount a bid for the club. He sits just below the 29.9% threshold. The bid for the club will come sooner rather later and be accompanied by the board’s recommendation to the shareholders accept the bid.
Both recent acquisitions, this one from Richard Carr and the previous from Danny Fiszman, were approved by the board. Someone at board level would have asked Kroenke, off the record, what his intentions and it is clear that he is looking to acquire the club.
It is no coincidence that Kroenke has become a pivotal figure at the club since the arrival of our new Chief Executive Office, Ivan Gazidis. Both men know each other through their involvement at the MLS. Gazidis has been very supportive of Kroenke and if the American was to acquire the club, no doubt he would rely upon Gazidis to undertake the day to day running of the club.
The person holding the key to the ownership of Arsenal is Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who was ignominiously sacked by the Hill-Wood-Fizsman axis on the board. If Lady Nina believes that Kroenke will keep Hill-Wood in situ then her allegiance will be towards Usmanov. If she sees a Kroenke buy-out a way of ridding the club of the Hill-Woods, then she will sell to the American.
The future of our club now rests with bitter lady who currently resides in Delhi.
Arsenal’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis has been talking about our three main shareholders, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke.
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who owns 15.9%, was ousted shortly before Gazidis was appointed. She has spent more time in India recently. Her shareholding is vital as to who will control the club.
Gazidis said, “I certainly plan to meet with Lady Nina and have a productive ongoing dialogue. She is a significant shareholder and she deserves to be treated as such.”
Gazidis has also had meetings with Alisher Usmanov, and expects these meetings to continue. This is a pragmatic approach rather than that of Hill-Wood who wishes to ostracise anyone who is not “his type.”
Gazidis stated, “I’ve spent some good time with him and I’m going to keep the contents of those meetings private but it’s a dialogue that is important for us to have. I have responsibilities not only to the board but to all the shareholders.
Gazidis also stated that Kroenke is a long-term investor in Arsenal Football Club. Kroenke recently increased his stake in the club to 20.5%, having acquired 5,000 shares from fellow Arsenal director and tax exile Danny Fiszman.
Gazidis said, “He is a long-term investor who thinks about the sports business very carefully and philosophically is very close to the traditional Arsenal ethos.
“The club has some unique assets that will appreciate in value – it’s a London club, it has one of the best stadiums in the world, it has a tremendous squad of players who will get better year on year, a fantastic manager and a good business model.
“I think for all those reasons, he thinks it’s a good investment.”
Arsenal are in very fluid situation, Lady Nina wishes to sell her shares, whilst the recent disposal of 5,000 shares by Fiszman clearly indicates that, despite his protestations, Fiszman is a seller. The two big beasts are Usmanov and Kroenke. Kroenke is a long-term investor, which means he will sell once the price is right. People need to remember the Manchester United takeover when the Irish duo built up a stake as a “long-term” investment, only to sell once the price was right.
Usmanov’s drive to buy the club has been dented by the current economic crisis that has seen his wealth fall from $9.1 billion to $6 billion.
Matters need to be resolved at Arsenal we have two shareholders who want to sell, whilst there are two who appear to wish to increase their stakes. We could end up with a USA / Russian alliance owning Arsenal, with David Dein installed as Chairman. Dein resigned as chairman of Red & Whist Holdings (Usmanov’s company) in September 2008, opening the way for him to be the “honest” broker between the Kroenke, whom he introduced to the club and Usmanov to whom he sold his shareholding.
The day it was reported that Alisher Usmanov’s wealth had crashed from $13.3bn to a mere $4.5bn, our friendly Russian through his Red and White Holdings vehicle has increased his stake to the highly significant 25%.
At this level, Red and White can block any Special Resolution that the board puts to the shareholders in terms of restructuring.
Red and White are now only 4.9% away from having to make a formal bid for the club.
There are many opinions as to whether a takeover is the right thing for Arsenal.
The recent shenanigans at Chelsea with Abramovich flying in to sack Scolari and appointing yet another of his friends as manager, the circus that is Manchester City and the failure of the Americans to provide the money to build a new stadium for Liverpool have turned many against a potential takeover by Usmanov.
However, the difference is that at the heart of Red and White Holdings is Mr Arsenal himself, David Dein. As long as Dein is involved with Arsenal, he will ensure that the best interests of the club come first and will not allow the Mickey Mouse antics that are going on at other clubs to come to Arsenal.
The next step in the eventual and inevitable takeover of Arsenal will come in the summer; Usmanov will be sounding out Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who was ignominiously sacked by Arsenal. Her 14% plus the shares owned by her extended family would allow Red and White to own in excess of 40%. This will be moment when the board, except for our Etonian Chairman, waves the white flag, takes their millions, and retire in Switzerland as tax exiles.
What Arsenal Football Club needs is a man at the controls who lives and breaths Arsenal, a man who will ensure Wenger REALLY has the funds he needs at his disposal, not mere empty statements. Dein will be that man and he could work in tandem with Ivan Gazidis.