Russian tycoon eyes Arsenal stake

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The Independent Online

A Russian billionaire businessman is considering buying a large stake in Arsenal, the north London football club.

Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia richest oligarchs who made his fortune in oil, has discussed the idea of investing up to £120m in Arsenal's proposed new stadium, according to a senior business associate.

The club is nearing its self-imposed December deadline to raise the funds for the £400m development but earlier this month Arsenal's largest shareholder, Danny Fiszman, admitted it still hadn't secured enough cash.

Mr Potanin has yet to approach Arsenal's board, but an associate revealed that he had discussed the plan just a few weeks ago. "He talked very seriously about it; he was keen," the source said.

Mr Potanin, 42, made his fortune in the mid-1990s as one of a handful of young businessmen who bought up Russia's prized assets on the cheap, under former President Boris Yeltsin's privatisation programme.

He helped to bankroll former Mr Yeltsin's troubled re-election campaign in 1996 and was later rewarded by being made deputy prime minister. He is now head of Interros, a giant holding company that accounts for 2.5 per cent of Russia's GDP.