Kroenke increases Arsenal stake

Stan Kroenke has purchased another 427 shares in Arsenal's parent holding company, at a cost of some £3.6million, as the American edges closer towards the takeover threshold.

The Denver-based sports magnate is now the largest individual shareholder in the Gunners, with a stake of some 29.6% after acquiring more stock from the estate of the British industrialist Ernest Harrison.

Should Kroenke, or indeed anyone else such as second-largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov, reach a figure of 29.9%, they would, under the City's financial regulations, be obliged to launch a formal takeover bid.

However, when the matter of his intentions for the Barclays Premier League club were directly questioned during the recent Annual General Meeting at Emirates Stadium, the American - nicknamed 'Silent Stan' - chose not to take the opportunity to address the gathered shareholders, with chairman Peter Hill-Wood intervening.

Any public statements against future bid intentions must be unambiguous, otherwise the individual or group would, under the Takeover Panel's rule 2.8, be prevented from making a formal move for six months.

While Hill-Wood insisted major changes behind the scenes were not on the agenda, the Arsenal chairman has also suggested he was "very relaxed" about a proposed takeover by the American.

The Arsenal Supporters Trust, meanwhile, believe the latest moves do not mean a takeover from Kroenke is imminent.

However, the fans group, whose representatives have travelled to the United States to meet Kroenke, stressed that were that position to change, "urgent discussions" would be necessary.

A statement from the AST, released to Press Association Sport, read: "While the AST welcome Stan Kroenke's involvement, we agree with the sentiment of Peter Hill-Wood's statement at the most recent AGM that there is no need for any shareholder to launch a takeover of the club.

"The AST believes in plurality of ownership.

"If a takeover is launched by any party, we would seek urgent discussions with those involved."

However, the AST also warned against problems which can be associated with individual ownership based on significant debt.

The statement added: "The AST has a good relationship with both Stan Kroenke and members of his team at Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE).

"We have stressed to them the importance of custodianship and that the club will be stronger if it has supporters directly involved in its ownership model.

"While we cannot vouch for their future actions, we are encouraged that they have said they see the AST having an important role to play at Arsenal.

"The AST has repeatedly stated that we are generally opposed to a takeover and would fight any plans that require the club to incur debt to pay for a takeover, as has happened at Manchester United and Liverpool.

"Two red lines that cannot be crossed are the use of debt secured on the club's assets to fund a takeover and an ownership structure which excludes small shareholders. Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person.

"The AST's own assessment of today's development is that a takeover is not imminent and that today's purchase is the consolidation of an existing position."

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