Kroenke closes in on Arsenal takeover

American could sell NFL franchise on Monday raising funds for Gunners' buyout
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The Independent Online

Stan Kroenke's takeover of Arsenal has been something of a saga but it could at last begin its final chapter next week if the American billionaire agrees to sell his share of the St Louis Rams. Monday is the deadline for the American to decide whether to accept a bid for the NFL franchise and were he to take the proffered funds he will be in an ideal position finally to gain control at the Emirates.

It may have been a takeover by stealth but there can be little doubt as to Kroenke's ultimate intention. Two weeks ago he bought a further seven shares in the club to take him within single figures of reaching the 30 per cent mark that requires him to launch a takeover bid. The club are currently valued at £622m – Kroenke would receive around £190m for his 40 per cent stake in the Rams, which would leave him with funds immediately at hand to buy out Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who between them hold another 30 per cent of Arsenal.

It is likely that Kroenke, who bought his first stake of 9.9 per cent three years ago, will delay any final move until the end of the month. Come May he will have to pay around £2,000 per share less under stock market rules that decree he must offer all shareholders the highest price that he paid over the previous year. Last May he paid the Carr family £10,500 per share.

Kroenke is believed to have broad support among other members of Arsenal's board, particularly from the key figures of Fiszman and Peter Hill-Wood, the chairman. The club's other major shareholder is Alisher Usmanov, the Russian magnate who owns just over 25 per cent through his Red & White Holdings but is not a member of the board. Arsène Wenger is said to be unconcerned over any Kroenke takeover, while the Arsenal Supporters Trust are also relaxed about the American upping his stake to the 50 per cent mark but maintain that a "plurality of ownership" remains the best option.

As well as his share in the Rams, Kroenke owns the Denver Nuggets basketball team, the NHL side Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rapids of the Major Soccer League. The 62-year-old shuns the limelight – in the States he is known as Silent Stanley – but is regarded as a sound owner. He has had regular meetings with members of the Supporters Trust, who have been impressed with his approach.

In February Shahid Khan, a Pakistan-born businessman, made a $750m offer for the Rams. Kroenke then had 60 days to decided whether to sell – Monday is the final day – and he intimated last month that he would leave it until the last moment until making his mind up.

"I think that it is prudent to think through your options," he told the St Louis Dispatch two weeks ago.

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