After nearly two years of shadow boxing, the camps of Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov are about to start to the real battle for control of the Gunners. Arsenal’s 4th largest shareholder, Lady Bracewell-Smith is looking to sell her 15.9% share and his retained the U.S. based brokers Blackstones to find a buyer. With both potential owners well within the the minimum threshold, the temptation to bid for the chunk that Lady Bracewell-Smith wishes to relinquish will be tantalising.
The additional issue here is that the Arsenal board view Kroenke as the friendly option and have assisted him by selling him shares between £8,500 and £10,000 each. Usmanov is rightly or wrongly, viewed as an unwilling option to most of the remaining board members. Whilst the animosity that both suitors faced is certainly nowhere near the levels it appeared when they began to buy up stock, Kroenke is now in poll position to push his shareholding in to the realms of making a bid for the entire club. He’s been on the board since 2008 and has quietly and effectively bought up stock and shares as it’s been made available.
Of course, the news has come as something of a surprise but it would now seem as if Arsenal are quickly moving toward new ownership, sooner rather than later. Kroenke currently holds 29.98% and Usmanov holds 26.26%. If anyone goes over 30% then they must make an offer for the rest of the shares, similarly to the situation that Manchester United had on the build up to the Glazer takeover.
Yet critics of Kroenke will point to the walking disasters that the Glazer reign and the Hicks/Gillett pairing and the fact that both groups that now own Liverpool and Manchester United came from U.S. sporting backgrounds. The difference for me is that Kroenke holds an MSL team and is well aware of the nuances of English football, having seen the issues that have blighted English footballs two most famous clubs.
The animosity is similar yet different, Ferguson has the full support of the fans who can see his hands are tied. Benitez uses the situation to cover the dreadful tactics and signings he makes to garner support with the fans. Both set of fans are completely at odds with the owners and it would take an amazing series of gaffes for Kroenke to alienate the Arsenal support to anywhere near the level his compatriots have.
Silent Stan would seem to be the prime candidate to make a bid for Lady Bracewell-Smith’s shares and so trigger the takeover threshold. Ironically, Kroenke is currently facing a similar situation over his stake the St. Louis Rams, which I still can’t get used to them being known as even if has been 16 years since the left Los Angeles. Or maybe I’m just showing my age!
Currently a bid of $750 million dollars is on the table for 100% of the Rams, Kroenke currently holds 40% so could be set to make a tidy amount of around $300 million, which would probably leave him more than enough to purchase the remaining 70.02% of the Gunners. Add a fantastic stadium recently built, consistent top 4 finishes and a constant conveyor belt of talent groomed by Arsene Wenger and you have a fantastic opportunity to take over a top quality Premiership side.
The only possible issues for financial outlay are the clubs debt, which currently stands at just over £200 million and strengthening the clubs playing squad. Arsenal do not require major surgery either off or on the field, regardless of whether Cesc Fabregas stays or rejoins Barcelona in the summer. One things for certain, Kroenke is definitely in pole position to take control of Arsenal, sooner rather than later and the rivals saddled with massive debts, disappointed fans and player squads and grounds in need of overhaul will be watching with trepidation. Arsenal could be about to embark on another glorious era.