Danny Fiszman yesterday showed where the power lies at Arsenal with the sudden sacking of managing director Keith Edelman. The secretive millionaire is becoming more heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the Premier League club and will take control of the process to find Edelman's successor.
It appears to have been largely Fiszman's decision to remove Edelman after eight years at Arsenal – although he will stay on for a further 12 months of so-called handover period – because the former diamond trader believes that someone who is more a football administrator is needed to drive the club forward.
Edelman's background was in business, and his primary duties were the club's commercial activities. His legacy will be the astonishing success of Arsenal's move from Highbury to the impressive 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium. But now that the project has been completed sources claim that Fiszman has grown increasingly concerned that other aspects of the club have not been attended to.
Inevitably Edelman's departure will spark speculation that Arsenal are moving towards being taken over, especially as the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, through his Red & White Holdings company, has nudged ahead of Fiszman as the largest shareholder. Usmanov owns 24.2 per cent of Arsenal, with Fiszman holding 24.1 per cent. Edelman has been adamant that Arsenal don't need a huge injection of outside cash.
Nevertheless sources claim that Fiszman is more committed than ever to the "lock-down" agreement that runs until 2012 and was intended to ward off potential buyers. Indeed they say his response has been to take a more hands-on approach. Stan Kroenke, the American sports tycoon, holds 12 per cent of the club and is closer to the board than Usmanov. He may benefit from Fiszman's plans but not to the extent of acquiring the club. "Danny Fiszman is in control," one source said. "He's tough and he doesn't stand still."
There has been tension at Arsenal for some time over the club's football activities. That has been exacerbated by the failure to tie down players such as Mathieu Flamini, who is set to leave on a free transfer to Milan, while transfer targets, including the French winger Frank Ribéry, proved elusive.
It may be harsh to blame Edelman, who earns £1m-a-year and will receive a significant pay-off, for that. But it's clear that since the departure of David Dein, who was ousted because of his willingness to try and bring in a foreign investor, Arsenal have struggled to cope with some aspects of the football business. Ironically they are now looking for a David Dein-style figure although there is no chance that their former vice-chairman, who now works with Usmanov, will return.
In a statement yesterday Arsenal praised Edelman's work with chairman Peter Hill-Wood saying the club owed him a "debt of gratitude". Arsenal Holdings plc added: "The board has already initiated the search for a new managing director and will update shareholders and stakeholders when appropriate. In the meantime, director Ken Friar, who has a wealth of football-based experience and business acumen, will assume the position of acting managing director."
Friar has already taken over Edelman's diary which includes a meeting with the influential Arsenal Supporters' Trust a week on Monday at which the club is likely to be quizzed over its finances and transfer policies. The trust yesterday outlined what it felt was required with a key element of that being "having influence in football's corridors of power" which is not something that Edelman appears to have. Edelman said of his departure that "it is the right time to seek pastures new and embark upon fresh challenges".Reuse content