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Finance: Kroenke, banks, fraud, corrpution, football…

I’m rather chuffed that this site made the financial state of football a central talking point long before it became an everyday topic of chit chat.

So it behoves me to give an update – not least because we now have a director on the edge of having to make a bid.

In this piece I cover Stan Kroenke, Rangers FC, Portsmouth, Hull, Barclays Bank, FIFA, and the usual financial cripples like Liverpool and Man U.

First thing to note about our Stan is that the story is he is not paying for his shares – at least not yet.  But if he makes a bid and buys the club he will have to do exactly that.

By my reckoning at the current price it will cost him £392m to buy shares he does not own – and for that he will get a famous name and a successful team – and a club that owes the banks something like £260m (the exact figure depends on exactly how you do the calculation – but let’s agree it is a lot).

Since the whole place is mortgaged for the next 22 years or so there’s not much money left to borrow out of the club, so buying it for £392m and then trying to get that plus the original £117m already invested to get the right to take on a debt of £260m doesn’t look very cute – at least not from a man who doesn’t seem to have all that cash at present.

Personally I don’t think that’s the game – but then what do I know.  I said last night’s score would be 6-1, and look what happened.

So let’s more on somewhere else…

Rangers. For us English folk they are just part of the duopoly – that nice bunch of guys who sing God Save the Queen at the end of matches and have a jolly drink in the streets of Manchester, and sing songs about famines.

I think this is the BIG ONE – much bigger than any of us Anglo-centric English supporters have realised.

We have known for years that Manchester U have debts sitting in lots of different places so it is hard to put them all together.  Rangers have debts such like that, and most of them seem to be related to a company called Murray International Holdings (MIH) which is the company of the man who owns 60% of Rangers.

MIH is built on debt. By the beginning of 2008, MIH’s debt was £759.3 million.   Rangers debt is £30m – which is nothing – unless the man who normally organises and re-arranges your debt owes £759m.

MIH can’t borrow any money because no one believes they can pay it back.  Also the money they have borrowed now does have to be paid back – the loans are being called in.

£432 million of the money outstanding in 2008 had been lent for just two years or less.    The loans are guaranteed by property – like Rangers FC’s ground – but that property is worth only half what it was worth four years ago.

So MIH want to sell stuff – and urgently – including Rangers – but no one wants to buy a club associated (rightly or wrongly) with sectarianism, fighting in Manchester and singing God Save the Queen and songs about potatoes.

So the banks are saying, fine – you can’t pay the debts, we’ll take over Rangers, cancel all the contracts, flog off the ground, and someone can build some flats there.

You might not believe that – but that is where it has got to.   The club is on the very edge of the edge of the edge of the edge.

Moving on…

Since 2004  Barclays have given £37m to 200 sports sites in deprived UK areas.  Which is fine and good and if you run one of those sites you’ll be having a jolly time.  But think on this…

Bob Diamond of Barclays had a personal income since 2004 of 3 times that amount, during which time he removed 18,000 workers from their final-salary pension scheme.  When challenged about the fact that he takes out more personally that the bank gives to this cause, and he destroys the retirement of many so that they can no longer afford their season ticket at their favoured club he said,

“The Premier League sponsorship has been very successful for Barclays.   It creates a positive emotional link between our brand and football fans everywhere.”

I think I would agree with that.  Except I would say, the moral fit of Barclays Bank and much of football is perfect.  They are both in the gutter, and neither is looking at the stars.

Here’s another corruption example.   Sepp Blatter is Lord of FIFA and wants to be elected Lord High President again.  His pal Mohamed bin Hammam has been re-elected to the executive committee of FIFA, so that’s another vote for Sepp, and a sign of where we are going.   During the election campaign the Guardian reported that Hammam threatened to “cut the heads off” rivals, and was accused of vote buying and manipulation.

But why not?  After all in 1998 Blatter said no to any inquiry into his election as Ruler of the Universe after 20 delegates were given $50,000 each.  Cash.   Not quite on the Barclays scale of course, but FIFA is getting there.

It makes Liverpool look like small beer. They need to find £60m this season to repay Royal Bank of Scotland part of the mega debts they owe, and they are still losing money each month.  Obviously if they were with Barclays life would be easier, and I suppose if they offer to swing some votes Sepp’s way, that will help them out.

In reality if Liverpool fail to reach the knock outs this year in Europe, and fail to qualify for the Champs next year, they are dead financially, and can be picked off by any one with enough money to pay the banks.   Mohamed bin Hammam perhaps.

The Tottenham case is interesting, because Tottenham with planning permission for a ground should be worth more than Tottenham without – unless anyone starts to think that maybe they won’t fill the new ground.

Arsenal proved they could fill their ground by playing for two years at Wembley in the Champs.  The Totts can’t do that because… well they never get into the Champs League.

Arsenal then produced their numbers.  They have 40,000 on the season ticket waiting list, which is a completely separate list from the 25,000 silver members, which is a separate list from the 70,000 red members – all of which is different from the actual 40,000 season ticket holders.    You can of course get on two lists if you pay – many silver ticket members are on the season ticket waiting list.

But Tottenham don’t do it like that.  You become their equivalent of a silver member, and you AUTOMATICALLY go onto the season ticket list.   I have doubts about filling up that new ground, and if it doesn’t fill, then all hell breaks out, financially.

Arsenal need Champs League knock out football every four years, and an average home league gate of 50,000 to pay their mortgage and make the sort of money they made at Highbury.  Everything over that is extra.   And the Totts?

West Ham – Poor West Ham. An FA enquiry into 3 separate ground invasions (“not guilty” says the club), still paying Sheffield for its match fixing arrangements of using an illegal player, now having to pay out to an ex-manager who was constructively dismissed, and all this while near the bottom of the league and being owned by an Icelandic bank that is bust.  I don’t know it does get worse than that, unless you count…

Portsmouth. Having wrecked Southampton Harry wrecked Portsmouth – or so that saying goes, leaving them in shreds.  Then they find an Arab buyer who… oh no… is the only Arab Sheik without loads of dosh.  Not to worry he sells it to another Arab Sheik, who… oh no… also turns out to have no dosh either.

On 29 Nov 2007 our Arry was arrested by police investigating financial matters.   Now Peter Storrie, the Portsmouth chief executive, has been charged by City of London Police with tax evasion.

Now here’s a funny thing.   Storrie has been on bail since being arrested on 29 November 2007 along with our ‘arry Redknapp on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting.   Still never mind, maybe they can find a Sheik.  Except that the latest one has said that the money he gave the club was “just a loan”.

But of course all is well at Birmingham. That Karen Brady is now helping the World Cup bid for England, and there’s a new man in charge… except, oooops, oh no, its another one of those things where no one but no one knows who actually owns the club.  Certainly not the guy with his eastern friends who is seen a lot at the club.  Nope – the owners are … secret.  Just like Leeds.  And Notts C.

With Manchester IOU the story is boring.  They have no money, the Ronaldododo money has gone straight to the owners’ pockets and they still can’t pay a penny of the back interest they own on all their loans – estimated at around £750m.

New on the block is Hull who simply don’t have the money to pay anyone or do anything or buy anyone or anything – even if they go down they can’t afford to survive.  £27m debt, a wage bill of £40m a year, and not a chance of paying off any of it.  10 point penalty anyone?

So there we go.  It was simpler in 1910 – but not totally plain sailing.  Woolwich Arsenal had some very odd debts and quite why they had them, no one wanted to say.   And would you believe it, Rangers were involved once again.  Read the whole story in MAKING THE ARSENAL.

(C) Tony Attwood 2009

PS In earlier editions I mis-spelled our leading shareholder’s name.  Sorry.

20 comments to Finance: Kroenke, banks, fraud, corrpution, football…

  • KP

    Some Kroenke info – and any city-types please feel free to correct me.

    The crucial 30% threshold is breached at 18,666 shares so if Stan gets another 72 shares (at the most recent price £8,500, total £612,000) he’s there.

    However! If this happens he’s required to bid for the remaining shares at the highest price paid in the previous 12 months, £10,500, which he paid on 1st May 2009. If he hits 30% before 2nd May 2010 he’ll have to pay another £457,306,500 – total additional spend £457,918,500. Since then he’s paid no more than £8,500. If he waits till 2nd May 2010 then he’ll save himself £2,000 per share and have to find “only” £372,512,500.

    As Tony says, if Stan has to borrow to do it, with the intention of doing what the Glaziers and Hicks/Gillette have done to Manure and Liverpuddle by dumping the debt on the club he’ll have a lot of trouble borrowing the money. Using the stadium as collateral when it’s already on a ~£250M mortage is tricky to say the least.

    What Stan’s recent moves are more likely to mean in the short term is a further stumbling block for Usmanov/Red & White. The recent activity makes it incredibly difficult for Usmanov to get to 30% himself but unless he pulls off a coup such as buying out Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s 15.9%, the moment he shows any sign of getting near to 30% Stan can approach his fellow directors and/or a handful of small shareholders to buy just a handful of shares and pre-empt Usmanov as the preferred buyer but even if either Stan Kroenke or Usmanov does make a bid it doesn’t mean the bid will be successful.

  • CASTANO

    im castano from Nigeria.very solid article tony…i promise to read all untold arsenal articles from now on.it seems though usmanov has conceeded deafeat.plus i have a bad feeling about the way kroenke keeps doing things and not opening up

  • diceman1984

    Another great piece Tony.

    And I kinda agree with KP. It looks very strange for a man to want to reach that 30% mark in this kind of situation. So I do think it’s a block of some sort towards the Uz.

    But no one can know his intentions but himself. Keep them coming thoug Tony, we don’t find many stuff like this on normal “channels”.

  • walter

    I just read an article on the site “young guns” and it did make me feel a bit assured.
    I really think, or is it hope, that Kroenke indeed does not want to take Arsenal over for now. And that the buying chares is just to block Usmanov.
    I really hope from the bottom of my heart that Arsenal wil remain the Arsenal as we know it for some 100 years now and for the next 100 years

  • LRV

    I don’t mind what games they choose to play within the board as long as it does not end up with any one owner of Arsenal. The club is fine as it is should remain so.

  • LRV

    I don’t mind what games they choose to play within the board as long as it does not end up with any one owner of Arsenal. The club is fine as it is should remain so.

  • walter

    The other teams mentioned in your exellent article… well they just can go bust.
    Good comment KP, the only blog out there where the comment section is from the same high quality as most of the articles.
    This is why I became an “Untold addict”

  • Paul C.

    I also read the Arsenal Youth piece on Kroenke and can also comment on a North Americam perspective on this (I now live in Canada). Stan Kroenke is viewed as a “model” sports owner here in North America. He is considered a forward-thinking, progressive and ambitious owner who gets good people into management positions and allows them to do their job, with the ultimate goal of improving the net worth of the franchise (through a combination of success on the field and improvements in PR/Marketing). European Football is seen as something of a cash cow for North American Owners becasue the lack of salary caps and luxury taxes allows clubs to be as big and successful as their revenue base allows them to be. Kroenke WILL NOT invest his own money into Arsenal for players etc., instead he will look to increase the revenue of the club in order to produce more money organically to spend on wages/players.

    As others have noted, even if Kroenke goes beyond 29.99% and has to make a bid for the club, there is no guarantee that other shareholders will accept his bid. In reality there are only two other shareholders of any relevance in this whole story – Usmanov and Bracewell-Smith. I am sure Kreonke has no intention on getting his hands on Fizman’s remaining shares for instance. The way Kroenke has been sweeping up loose shares of small shareholders suggests that the club is indeed trying to force some kind of end-game scenario from Usmanov and to force Bracewell-Smith to make a decision which side of the fence she wants to call home. In this the support of Arsene Wenger towards Kroenke would appear to be crucial.

    I also agree with others that there would appear to be ZERO chance of Kroenke loading the club with debt given the experience of Utd and Liverpool in that respect. The Board have seen the negative publicity generated around those clubs by that decision and would surely be mad to go such a route.

  • walter

    Thanks Paul C, so it looks like we have the good, and the bad and ugly at our club. The last in one person. 😉
    I also have tried to find out more about Kroenke today and he really looks like a serious and honourable businesman. So it wouldn’t spell disaster if he takes over. But then again really would love to see the status quo from now on. And I don’t mean the band.

  • walter

    About that planning permission that the Spuds got, does anyone now if such a permission expires ?
    This is question I ask from my own professional background as in Belgium you have to start the works within 2 years and if not the permission expires. Just a bit curious. I know the laws over here but I already heard some strange things about the laws in the UK.

  • Finsbury

    It depends upon the council and the type of planning permission granted (residential, retail etc…) but the standard planning award in the UK is valid for 5 years.
    It’s a complex and muddy bog, grubby fingers & stained envelopes usually help. There were bribes offered to Islington Council by AFC in the form of developments for the local borough to help win planning, some would say not enough. In Arsenal’s case getting the award took almost longer then the stadium did to build. Which probably helped with the project management, it wasn’t rushed in the end and the project kept to budget.
    But in these halcyon days of neo-Thatcherite corporatism, the efficiency of the planning process here depends upon the mood of the short-term contract-less antipodean travellers one encounters in the local planning departments. And whether they’ll still be there in six months time.

  • dave hall

    As I understand it if Stan increases his stake beyond the 30% threshold and other major shareholders (Red & White, Lady Nina & Danny F) state they would not sell at the bid price the Takeover Panel could well issue a waiver. He would not then be required to bid for the remaining shares.

  • Marc

    Nice piece Tony we’ve all been reading your thoughts and commenting about the perilous financial state of much of football for quite a while now. I recently started a new job, the guys in the office are a nice bunch but they still think that ManU can go out in Jan and spend £30 million and we just don’t have the money. When I pointed out the level of ManU’s debt the response was well they can afford it. The fact that the last set of Arsenal account showed the highest ever turnover by a British football club is not only ignored but unknown to them. This will all carry on till a major club goes to the wall which as long as Liverpool keep Benitez in charge will be Liverpool. The problem is if a sugerdaddy comes along and saves them instead of thinking never again the crys for even more spending will get louder.

  • walter

    Thank you Finsbury for your explanation. So it gives them a while to start building. If they ever start. I really think it is like the Liverpool thing. Planning but not building.

  • gerald

    sorry to interrupt the serious financial business going on here but i think i have to propose a law prohibiting blogging unless one has something to say. I have just read from someone who calls themselves an arsenal fan that they are concerned that language barrier is causing/ will cause poor performance on the pitch. Something about 2nd language not being able to communicate the passion of the message. and the guy seems to think he has found the reason whe we have not won trophies for a while. PLEASE!

  • eduardo

    If Kroenke or Usmanov go over the 30% they are required to bid for all reamining shares but no shareholder is obliged to sell, at any price, but he has to as pointed out by others offer the highest price paid by him in the last 12 months. So even if Usmanov got LAdy Nina shares or if Kroenke got Danny Fizsman shares, as long at the other two turn down the offer then no one can buy out the club. Mainly cos the AST shareholders have around 11% and they are totally opposed to selling, in fact they are trying to get lady Nina to either give her shares to them or join or at least side with them and so a combined holding by them of over 25% would mean they would never have to sell even if someone got the other 75% of shares, and this large block of shares opposing a single owner would mean banks and the like would not loan money for a takeover.

    This scenario also applies to anyone getting 51% or more of the shares, they would have controlling rights but as long as a large block refuse to sell it would make it almost impossible for debt to be put on to the club from whoever buys the shares. Only when someone gets around 85% of shares can they force the buying of all shares and only then can the put debt incurred buying the shares onto the club.
    So we can only hope Kroenke is buying shares to make it harder for Usmanov to buy Arsenal, or that Lady Nina, Usmanov, and AST refuse to sell and so block Kroenke to get total control of Arsenal, as I said if Lady Nina joins forces with AST I believe they would have enough shares to make sure no individual could ever get Arsenal 100%.

  • walter

    Thank you Eduardo for your comment. So live looks rather good for Arsenal.
    Visited the AST site and looks good and hope what you want happens. Just one remark upon the AST site : you can’t find a link to the Untold Arsenal ? My only dissapointment. 😉

  • Pete the First

    Can we trust Kroenke? Time will tell.

    Spurs and the Lewis/Levy clan will not be able to afford this new ground project. They are trying to flog the set up. With the potential of a new stadium it sounds like a more attractive proposition to a prospective buyer. Let’s watch the next few years slip by with no building action on Tottenham High Road. Dream dream dream…..

  • Ithaca Gooner

    Firstly, a brilliant article Tony! This is my first post to this site. I’ve back read many of the articles. They are honest, state the facts and most of all ooze unflinching support & love for the club! That does like a breath of fresh air when compared to many of the blogs! Go Gooners!

  • walter

    As not living in London this is just a hypothesis.
    Imagine your a spuds fan (is this asking to much ? ) and you see your rivals having a great team and a majestic new stadium. I can imagine that you would look at that with envy.
    So I could imagine that a lot of those spuds fans (stop imagining being a spuds fan now, I dont want to torture you) moan about our stadium and put pressure on their board to give them something new to dream about.
    even in my country when this new stadium was mentionned in the press someone came out of the sewer and told that Spurs would the the biggest club on earth with that stadium or something like that anyway. Haven’t heard of him since saturday anymore.
    So my hypothesis is that it is just to give the spuds fans the impression that the board is working on something.

    Well we don’t have to dream about new stadiums, we have it already.