American investor joins Arsenal board

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American businessman Stan Kroenke joined the board of Arsenal today in a move that could block a potential takeover by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.

The Denver-based investor has become a non-executive director and holds a 12.4 per cent share in the Premier League side. Usmanov's Red and White Holdings Ltd., meanwhile, has a stake of more than 24 percent.

The announcement came as Arsenal reported a pretax profit of 36.7 million pounds (US$66 million; €46.4 million) for the year ending May 2008.

The London club took steps last October to rule out an unwanted takeover by making sure board members can't sell their shares in the club to an outsider. That "lock-down agreement" - not signed by Kroenke - runs until April 2009, and club directors have to give other board members first option until October 2012.

"Mr. Kroenke fully supports the approach the board has taken in setting the direction of the club and we believe his experience in sports team commercial management, sports marketing, media and new media rights as well as real estate development will be of great value," Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood said in a statement.

The move signifies a cooling of tensions toward Kroenke, whose first interest in the club was greeted with suspicion by Hill-Wood, who said in April 2007: "We don't need his money and we don't want his sort."

Kroenke has agreed not to increase his stake beyond 29.9 percent - just short of the 30 per cent threshold that triggers a mandatory offer for the remaining shares - unless Usmanov or another party launches a takeover bid. Then he would be able to do so with the consent of the board.

Through Kroenke Sports Enterprises, Kroenke also controls the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.

"It is a real honor to be invited to join the board of Arsenal given their pre-eminent reputation and position in football worldwide," Kroenke said. "I hope my background in sports management will be an asset to Arsenal in their commercial dealings going forward."

Eight of the Premier League's 20 clubs are foreign-owned, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa in the hands of American investors.

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