Kroenke raises stakes in battle of billionaires

Secretive American tycoon outflanks Russian rival in Arsenal's power struggle

The battle for control of Arsenal entered a new phase yesterday as the American billionaire, Stan Kroenke, bought another eight per cent of the club's shares for £42.5m from a fellow board member, Danny Fiszman, taking his holding to 20.5 per cent, and then received a lavish endorsement as "a model owner" from the club's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis.

The share trade alone is understood to have rattled Arsenal's majority shareholder, the predatory Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, who with a business partner owns 25 per cent of the club through his investment vehicle, Red & White Holdings. The lack of warmth from Gazidis will only have compounded that ire, and a civil war within the "Arsenal family" for ownership of the club is on the cards.

The next significant skirmish is likely to involve Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who owns 15.9 per cent of the club. The destination of her shares, should she decide to sell, could tip the balance in favour of one of the warring parties, but no sale is guaranteed and Kroenke holds more aces than Usmanov for now.

Ever since The Independent exclusively revealed Kroenke's initial involvement with Arsenal as a commercial partner two years ago, and his desire to buy into the club, his long-term ambition has been control, if not outright ownership. His latest purchase from Fiszman takes his stake to 20.5 per cent of the club while reducing the holding of Fiszman to 16.1 per cent. But of as much significance as the numbers was the stance of Gazidis.

Notable by their absence were any flattering words about Usmanov, who is furious at his continued exclusion from the inner sanctum at the Emirates, where he has no board representation and no sign of that changing.

An Arsenal insider with first-hand knowledge of the latest Kroenke-Fiszman deal said: "This is a major play en route to a scenario where Stan is the major shareholder in an Arsenal regime run by a Kroenke-Fiszman partnership."

Kroenke, 61, knows Gazidis well through their dealings in Major League Soccer in America. Gazidis was the MLS deputy commissioner before moving to Arsenal, while Kroenke owns the MLS franchise, Colorado Rapids, among a portfolio of sports interest that spans American football, basketball and ice hockey as well as soccer.

In an interview with Arsenal.com, Gazidis said that despite the share boost for Kroenke "it is business as usual" at the club. But he gave more of hint where the club's ownership ambitions lie when he said: "Stan really is a model owner. He takes the long-term view and believes in the model that Arsenal has been run on, of self-sustainability, and has developed a good relationship with other members of the board. This is somebody who shares the philosophies of the current board and who will be influential as we go forwards."

The next big question is whether Lady Nina will sell her shares, and to whom. Gazidis effectively confirmed that Kroenke and/or Fiszman are would-be buyers by saying: "Certainly if she were to say she was a seller, then I am sure there would be interest among the current Arsenal board."

The influential Arsenal Supporters' Trust has said it supports Kroenke's latest move, with a spokesman saying: "The AST has met with Stan Kroenke and visited his operations in Colorado. We were supportive of him joining the board and welcome the sporting and commercial expertise he brings to the club. If a sale had to take place we are reassured that it is to Stan. The fact that Stan Kroenke is already a member of the board at Arsenal should ensure that this change does not create any instability."

Emirates board game: The big players

Stan Kroenke (20.5 per cent stake): "Silent Stanley" – who rarely speaks in public – has become the most powerful Arsenal board member. The 61-year-old is a major player in many American sports and his wealth is valued at £1.9bn.

Alisher Usmanov (25 per cent): The billionaire born in Uzbekistan has largest stake in the club, through Red & White Holdings, but is not on the board. Made his money in mining and lumber and is worth £6.5bn but is treated with suspicion by the board

Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9 per cent): Became a shareholder through marriage but was controversially voted off the board last year. If she decides to sell her stake, to whom she sells could determine the future ownership of the club.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone