Trying to second-guess what Stan Kroenke does next is never easy because "Silent Stanley" is aptly nicknamed, but his decision in the early hours of yesterday to make a full takeover bid for the St Louis Rams NFL team suggests he is no hurry to launch a similar buyout at Arsenal.
When it emerged on Monday that one of Arsenal's major shareholders, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, was looking to sell her 15.9 per cent stake (worth roughly £100m), it was widely, erroneously assumed that a takeover battle would follow.
Kroenke, with 29.9 per cent of Arsenal, is the club's largest shareholder, ahead of the Uzbek billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, with 26 per cent. If either bought Bracewell-Smith's shares, their holdings would soar above the 30 per cent "trigger" and force a mandatory offer for the rest of the shares.
The fact that neither had already bought the shares – known to be on sale by Arsenal insiders for some time – implies they either don't want them [Usmanov], or don't want them yet, at least at Bracewell-Smith's asking price of around £10,000 per share [Kroenke].
Why? Because with boardroom alliances, Kroenke can probably gain a majority of shares at a time of his choosing, and without Bracewell-Smith's shares. Usmanov can't get easily get past 50 per cent (and crucial control), even with Bracewell-Smith.
The thickener in this plot is that Kroenke had until midnight, US time, on Monday, to decide whether to exercise his option on buying the 60 per cent share of the Rams that he doesn't already own. Many observers thought he would sell his own 40 per cent stake, and launch an Arsenal bid with the proceeds.
Those who have followed his career more closely – and know that over several decades he's never sold a single share in any sports franchise after investing – thought he would stick at 40 per cent. Few thought he'd take up the 60 per cent option.
The owner of that 60 per cent stake is Chip Rosenbloom, who inherited it from his mother in 2008. He had already agreed a provisional sale to an Illinois tycoon, Shahid Khan, for a sum believed to be $450m (about £300m). But Kroenke also had the option to buy that 60 per cent, or sell his 40 per cent, or just keep his 40 per cent.
One complicating factor is that Kroenke's bid for 100 per cent of the Rams will test NFL rules that prevent majority ownership in an NFL franchise if they own another major league team in a different market. Kroenke owns NBA, NHL and MLS teams so must either challenge the NFL rules, downgrade other interests, or strike a compromise deal.
At Arsenal, Bracewell-Smith's placing of her shares on the market distracts from the core fact that Kroenke has been in the box seat for a long time, and remains there. He will likely go past 50 per cent one day, but is in no rush.Reuse content