American billionaire Stan Kroenke yesterday took control of Arsenal, buying 62.89 per cent of the club after securing a deal to purchase the shares of Danny Fiszman (17 per cent) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (16 per cent). He now needs to try to buy the remaining shares, owned by Russian steel magnate Alisher Usmanov, who maintains a 27 per cent stake through his Red and White Holdings.
Kroenke, who has been a shareholder for four years, underlined his support for Arsène Wenger yesterday and stated his intention to continue with the business model at the Emirates, but there remain questions over the future, immediate and long-term, of the club.
Q Will Kroenke be borrowing large amounts to buy the club and saddling it with a huge debt, like the Glazers at Manchester United?
A Arsenal say not. In their statement, in which they recommend that shareholders take up Kroenke's offer of £11,750 per share, the board said: "Kroenke Sports Enterprises [the purchasing vehicle] 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, made through real estate and constructing shopping centres, and business developments, 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 Major League Soccer side the Colorado Rapids.
Q Will Usmanov now decide to sell his shares?
A Not just yet. He was reported yesterday 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 with their shares.
Q So how has Kroenke gone from the "wrong sort" to a "safe custodian"?
A When Kroenke first bought 9.9 per cent 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, Mr 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.
Q Will the change of ownership make any real difference?
A 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 27 per cent of the club and as such can prevent any major structural changes to the company. However, Kroenke will have the power to appoint a new manager, or new directors, as he likes. In his other sporting clubs, Kroenke has been a supportive owner, so it is unlikely he will sack Wenger, bring in Jose Mourinho, and order a £200m splurge on new players. There will undoubtedly be changes. A more aggressive marketing strategy is likely, with a focus firmly on the Far East. Wenger has managed to resist the club's desire to tour Asia, but it is a losing battle and they are heading to Malaysia this summer, after a trip to Japan was cancelled following the tsunami. 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.
Q So will he be able to end six years without a trophy?
A He certainly thinks so. Kroenke said yesterday: "Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsène 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 to 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 in American sports.
Q Isn't Kroenke a close friend of former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein? Will Dein be returning to the board?
A Dein did indeed give Kroenke his backing in 2007, recommending a takeover of the club which resulted in Dein falling out with board members and losing his job. Although Dein later that year sold his 14.6 per cent stake of the club to Usmanov for £75m, he is still close to Kroenke and a return to The Emirates cannot be ruled out.
Kroenke's American teams
* St Louis Rams (acquired 40% in 1995) NFL Super Bowl champions for the first time in their history in 2000.
* Denver Nuggets (acquired outright in 2000) Spent $450m (£275m) on NBA team and their stadium, the Pepsi Center, but has had limited success.
* Colorado Avalanche (2000) Bought as part of the Nuggets deal. Won ice hockey's highest prize, the Stanley Cup, in Kroenke's first year of ownership.
* Colorado Rapids (acquired outright in 2004) Spent $131m (£80m) on a new football stadium in '07. Won the MLS Cup and MLS Eastern Conference in 2010.
* Colorado Mammoths (outright in 2004) NLL (lacrosse) champions in 2006.
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