By Tony Attwood
I didn’t see it coming – in fact I have written a number of times on this blog to say that Mr Kronke would not be buying Arsenal. And then lo and behold he does. (Exit editor stage left covered in egg).
Good or bad it is certainly the end of a 100 year era as far as I can see, for it looks to me like being the first time since 1910 that one man has owned the majority of the club.
The last time it happened was in the summer of that fateful year when (as everyone who has read my book on the subject will of course know) Henry Norris took over the club as it teetered on the bring of administration. Norris gave no assurances at first, and tried to merge Woolwich Arsenal with Fulham, with the resultant Fulham Arsenal playing at Craven Cottage.
When the League turned this idea down he returned with a second plan in which Woolwich Arsenal would play as a separate club again at Craven Cottage, on alternative saturdays.
The league said they had no powers to stop this move, despite the huffing and puffing from the neighbouring artificially created club Chelsea, who had entered the league from nowhere – no fans, no team, no history, no nothing. Just a bit of land.
In the end Henry Norris gave an undertaking not to move the club for two years, in order to give the locals of Plumstead and Woolwich the chance to buy the club. In fact Mr Norris left the club at its old ground for three years, before moving us north in 1913. By the time we left we were playing to crowds of 3,000.
As far as I can work out Mr Norris offered the club’s shares to anyone interested three times over, and when not many people in Woolwich and Plumstead were interested he set up a company in which he and his fellow-travellers took up the ownership.
Today the shares the Norris issued in the company are still the same shares that are traded – what was once sold at £1 each is now traded at £11750 each or more – although there have been some share issues along the way.
Mr Kroenke has given a number of “confirmations” to the Board including how he proposes to finance the Offer – suggesting that he is not going to do a Glazer – although of course nothing can stop him doing a Glazer if he wants to. But it would be very out of character.
He’s rich – well very rich – and so is his good lady, so they ought to be able to find £500m in cash if they need to. Trouble is we don’t really know how much cash he has, because he has companies in Delaware. This isn’t quite like having companies in the Virgin Islands and the like (as Tottenham do) but still, it is a dark, if not an utterly black, hole in accounting terms.
Anyway, he’s got Danny Fiszman’s shares and Lady Nina’s. The latter deal is rather good news, because since the bust up at board level, Lady Nina has been a bit of a loose cannon threatening to sell her bunch of goodies to the Devil (well, not quite Tottenham, but you know… she didn’t seem to be on the best of terms with the board after the alteraction). So the new owner has 62.89% and is (as the law requires) launching a bid for the rest.
Whether Mr Kronke gets the whole club depends on Alisher Usmanov’s 27% stake. How bizarre it would be if we started to see Mr Usmanov as the bulwark against the unwanted invader, rather than Mr Kronke as the bulwark against Mr Usmanov. I’m not sure Mr Usmanov will sell, and that means the compulsory takeover of all the small shareholdings will not happen. My little investment in the club via Fanshare looks safe for the time being.
So, we wait to see if Mr Kronke will act like the previous owners of Liverpool or will be honourable. My money would be on the latter – not least because he is a man who owns lots of sports ventures, and has never wrecked any of them, as far as I know. But then, as I said at the start, what do I know?
However Mr Wenger is still in place until 2014, and Mr Kroenke is on record as saying Arsène Wenger is a wonderful manager. I wonder if any of Mr Kroenke’s staff give him summaries of the jottings of Untold? With statements like that he ought to be standing next to Walter and I at the top of the page. If I spot Mr Kroenke outside the Auld Triangle having a pre-match beverage I’ll see if we can get a snap.
Anyway, he now has Arsenal, Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), St Louis Rams (NFL) and Colorado Rapids (MLS), various sporting locations, regional sports TV channel and a ticketing company and is reputed never to have sold a single share or any club having bought it. I think he also wants to be dealing in Arsenal’s HD broadband rights too.
But here’s a little thought to be going on with (although you might not find it of much value given my mis-guess over what would happen in this affair).
Mr Wenger will leave in a few years time. We will need another manager. That manager might continue the policy of building youth teams and putting the money into salaries not huge transfers. But if the new boss does want to spend lots of money, the chances are there is someone sitting at the top of the club who has it, and could donate it.
So, that’s it. We have a new owner. All things considered, if I had had to pick one from the potential list of candidates, Mr Kroenke would have been the man. Certainly I think I would sooner have this American billionaire, rather than one of those Russian or Arabian fellows. But maybe that’s just because I quite like the USA.
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