Stan Kroenke share offer remains open

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The Independent Online

Stan Kroenke's unconditional offer to Arsenal shareholders will remain open despite the American tycoon not completing a full takeover of the Barclays Premier League club.

Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which has gradually built its stake in the Gunners since first buying 9.9% of shares in 2007, took a controlling interest in Arsenal's parent holding company last month after reaching agreements for the stock of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and the late Danny Fiszman.

Those dealings took the Denver-based entrepreneur over the mandatory 30% threshold at which he was, under City rules, obliged to make a formal offer for the remaining capital at £11,750 a share which valued the club at some £750million.

However, with Uzbek oil magnate Alisher Usmanov not selling his 27% stock through Red & White Holdings and the Arsenal Supporters Trust also urging all minority shareholders not to cash in, the Gunners will remain outside private ownership.

Crucially, though, Kroenke - who accepted an invitation to join the board in September 2008 - will still retain overall control, with his stake now at just under 64%.

A statement to the PLUS Stock Exchange read: "KSE is pleased to announce that the Acceptance Condition has now been satisfied and the Offer is therefore unconditional in all respects.

"The Offer, which remains subject to the terms set out in the Offer Document, will remain open for acceptances until further notice."

Kroenke already has a proven track record of successful sports ownership in the United States, with the St Louis Rams NFL franchise, as well as Denver Nuggets NBA team, NHL outfit Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer's current champions Colorado Rapids.

In the 64-page formal offer document distributed to all shareholders last month, chairmen Peter Hill-Wood said the Arsenal board were "confident" Kroenke would be a "safe custodian" of the club's future.

Indeed, when the takeover offer was first announced, KSE had declared: "We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success."

Just a few weeks ago, everything was on track to deliver a first trophy since 2005 before a shock defeat in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham at Wembley signalled a cataclysmic collapse by Arsene Wenger's young squad over the closing 12 weeks of the campaign.

Should FA Cup winners Manchester City again get the better of Stoke at Eastlands tonight, then Arsenal would drop down to fourth in the Premier League and so face the prospect of having to qualify for next season's Champions League.

The Gunners again paid the price for a below-par display when they were beaten by Aston Villa in their last home game on Sunday - with boos greeting the final whistle and thousands of supporters leaving the stadium ahead of the team's lap of appreciation.

Wenger accepts Arsenal must be more "ruthless" against the Premier League's also-rans if they are to turn potential into trophies come this time next year.

"We were not able to dominate in the lesser games," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

"We were not ruthless enough and put ourselves into a bad position, which was a little bit the story of the season.

"Away from home we did well, against the big teams at home we did well, but in the smaller games we would not raise our level of concentration to be ruthless enough.

"Disappointments have been added to disappointments and it is difficult to fight against that."

Wenger is expected to add some experience to his squad over the summer, with England midfielder Scott Parker a reported target now the FWA Footballer of the Year will leave relegated West Ham.

The Gunners boss, though, continues to be linked with young talent, including Barcelona's 16-year-old striker Hector Bellerin.

Arsenal are, meanwhile, set to break with tradition and embark on a lucrative tour this summer, which is set to feature games in China and Malaysia during mid-July ahead of the Emirates Cup.

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