Kroenke on the verge of Arsenal takeover
Thursday 05 November 2009
Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who once said of Stan Kroenke "we don't need his money and we don't want his sort", has delivered the American to the brink of a formal takeover of the north London club.
The Denver-based sports magnate moved closer to the point where he would be required to make a bid for the whole club by acquiring another 200 shares in the Barclays Premier League outfit's parent holding company.
They came at a cost of £1.7million from chairman Hill-Wood, who famously disparaged Kroenke when the American first bought a stake in Arsenal in April 2007.
Kroenke, who is already a director, now controls 29.9% - just short of the 29.99% mark beyond which he would be forced to make an offer for the remaining shares.
Asked if he thought it was significant that it was Hill-Wood who had sold the latest batch of shares to Kroenke, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agreed but added: "A takeover is certainly not inevitable."
Much has been made of just what Kroenke - nicknamed 'Silent Stan' for his aversion to the media spotlight - may have in mind for the Gunners.
However, manager Wenger maintained: "Without any doubt he is interested in football and Arsenal.
"It can have both a positive and a negative influence, that is the same with every owner.
"As to what his ambitions and goals are, I do not know. He can answer that question better than me."
Wenger added: "He is at 29.9%, so he is not yet in a position where is has to make a bid, so the situation at the club does not change."
The Arsenal boss insists he remains focussed on the job in hand with the team, rather than what may be going on 'above' in the Emirates Stadium boardroom.
"I care and worry about my plans," said Wenger, whose young side last night beat AZ Alkmaar 4-1 to all but secure a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
"I see it like floors - they are above my head, and I look downwards to the team.
"I take care of what is under my responsibility - that means the team, the way we play, the results and our next game.
"All the rest is a little bit above my head."
Wenger was tempted to invest his own money in Arsenal stock, but decided against it.
"I thought about it, but I felt that always I should try to do the job with a good work ethic and not to be accused that any decision was in my personal interest," he said.
"It was always healthy to not be involved in it at all."
When the matter of Kroenke's intentions was raised during the recent Annual General Meeting at Emirates Stadium, the American chose not to take the opportunity to address the gathered shareholders, with Hill-Wood intervening.
That, though, could just be down to the fact any public statements against future bid intentions must, under the Takeover Panel's rule 2.8, be unambiguous, otherwise the individual or group would 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, with the latest transaction now leaving him with control of just 400 shares, a holding of only 0.6%.
Reports in the United States suggest Kroenke is on the verge of selling his 40% stake in the St Louis Rams American Football franchise, which would bring a substantial return on his initial US 200million (£120million) investment and free up more funds to plough into Arsenal.
Under the strict financial rules of the City, were Kroenke to cross the takeover threshold he would be obliged to make a formal offer for the remainder of the shares at the highest price paid for stock during the past 12 months, which was £10,500 in May.
However, shareholders would not be forced to sell, and so after the offer had been made, if Kroenke was not able to reach 50%, then he could not return to make another takeover offer for 12 months, unless invited to do so by the company.
It has been suggested Kroenke's continued steady investment is designed to fend off possible aggressive moves by Russian Alisher Usmanov, whose Red & White Holdings have just over 25% of the club.
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who left the board during December last year, could well hold the balance of power with her family's 15.9% stake, which if sold to either Kroenke or Usmanov would push both well past the takeover threshold.
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