Stan Kroenke takes controlling stake in 'special' Arsenal

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The Independent Football

American businessman Stan Kroenke has vowed to bring silverware back to Arsenal's dusty trophy cabinet after taking a controlling stake in the club.

Kroenke Sports Enterprises, who first bought a 9.9% share in the club in 2007, will now seek to complete a takeover of the club after today increasing their stake to 62.89%.

KSE have reached undertakings with major shareholders Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and must now bid to buy up the remaining shares. Terms have been agreed with Arsenal shares priced at £11,750 and the club's value set at £731million.

Arsenal have not won a trophy since the FA Cup in 2005 but Kroenke has backed Arsene Wenger as manager and vowed to bring success to the Emirates Stadium.

"We are excited about the opportunity to increase our involvement with and commitment to Arsenal," he said.

"Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger.

"We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success."

Kroenke has asked the existing board at Arsenal to remain in place.

"I am delighted that Peter Hill-Wood has agreed to support us by continuing as chairman," Kroenke added.

"We especially wish to acknowledge and thank the board, Danny Fiszman and the Fiszman family as well as Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and her family for the confidence they have had in me over the past years and in allowing us to move forward in this more prominent role."

KSE already own the St Louis Rams NFL team, NBA basketball franchise the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche NHL ice hockey team and Major League Soccer side the Colorado Rapids.

As a director of Arsenal, Kroenke has already been through the Premier League's 'owners and directors test'.

KSE will have to provide the Premier League with a projected financial position to prove they can sustain running the club for the next 12 months before any takeover can be completed.

Liverpool and Blackburn have already been through that process since the Premier League's new financial rules were introduced at the start of this season.

Kroenke has committed to continue to operate the club in line with its existing "self-sustaining business model" and he will not be funding his offer with debt finance secured against the club.

Kroenke's main focus will now be on purchasing the stake of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who does not have a seat on the board but controls 27% of the club's holding company.

Arsenal's independent directors - Hill-Wood, Ivan Gazidis, Ken Friar, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham - are recommending that shareholders accept Kroenke's offer.

Hill-Wood reacted to KSE's initial share purchase four years ago by saying Arsenal did not want Kroenke's "sort" involved at the club.

But he said today: "The board of directors and I consider it a key responsibility to protect the ethos and spirit of the club.

"Mr Kroenke, although relatively new to Arsenal, has shown himself to be a man who values and respects the history and traditions of this very special club that we cherish. We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its future."

Gunners boss Wenger welcomed the news and said: "I have worked with Stan Kroenke at board meetings over the past couple of years and I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart.

"He understands the club's heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the club in a way which protects our long-term future."

The Arsenal Supporters Trust said today they had received assurances from Gazidis about the importance of fans' involvement in the ownership of the club.

The AST will discuss the takeover bid at tonight's AGM and it is expected they will advise members not to sell their shares in Arsenal Holdings PLC, to ensure supporters retain a stake in the ownership structure.

"The AST are encouraged by Kroenke's offer but the key judgement is whether the supporters are involved in the ownership," said spokesman Tim Payton.

"The AST wants to see supporters shareholders in the ownership structure and is encouraged that Kroenke does not intend to delist from the PLUS Stock Exchange.

"We have spoken to Ivan Gazidis who reiterated the importance placed on fans' involvement in their commitment to custodianship.

"The AST has always been wholly opposed to any takeover placing debt on Arsenal Football Club. It is very good news that Kroenke confirmed he has no intention of doing this."





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