by Andrew Crawshaw
The AGM is a shareholder’s meeting required by law to be held each year so that the Board of Directors can be seen to be accountable to the company shareholders.
OK so who are the shareholders and how many shares do they each have?
To answer this question I refer to a piece posted by “angryofislington” on the14th October titled “Who owns Arsenal”. In brief there are 62,217 tradeable shares, 41,698 (67%) are owned by KSE wholly owned by Mr Kronke. The next largest block is 18,695 (30%) held by Red and White Holdings jointly owned by Mr Usamov and Farhad Moshiri. These two blocks of shares come to 60,393 or 97.07% of the total. The residual 1,824 shares are owned by small shareholders with individual holdings of between 1 and 116 shares. There are still a few hundred small shareholders many of whom are pretty hardcore supporters, I attend as a representative of one of them. Interestingly there are some 14 share owners with 120 shares that are currently untraced. At a share value of £15-16k each there are some people sitting on unexpected nest eggs (if anyone has a relative or friend who thinks they or their father, grandfather etc. used to own shares it is worth getting them to check through their old paperwork for evidence).
It is a given that once Mr Kronke puts his hand up to support a vote then it is carried irrespective of the wishes of any other shareholder. He has to listen to the small shareholders but doesn’t have to agree with them.
The Arsenal Board is made up of the following
Chairman – Sir Chips Keswick
Chief Executive – Ivan Gazidis
Directors – Ken Friar, Lord Harris of Peckham, Stan Kroenke, Josh Kroenke
There is a section of the Arsenal.com website that relates to the Arsenal Board and has more details of the members and holdings of both KSE and Red and White Securities Ltd.
The meeting falls into three separate parts, The formal business of the Company, approval of accounts, Auditors report etc; addresses by Ivan Gazedis and Arsène Wenger; and questions from shareholders firstly submitted in writing in advance of the meeting and secondly (if time and the Chairman permits) from the floor.
Once the meeting is over Ivan Gazidis and Arsène Wenger are usually available for informal meet and greet opportunities but these are quite brief, a handshake and photo is about the most that one can get.
As expected the formal parts of the agenda were all passed. There was a significant level of discussion in the room concerning the 3million payment to KSE for the second year running. The initial response by Sir Chips to the three questions raised regarding this payment were met with considerable derision from some sections of the audience.
The initial response was that the payments were made to cover and all pieces of advice given to the Arsenal Board by KSL and had been specifically approved by Sir Chips and that he was not prepared to discuss the matter further. One of the three authors of written questions on the matter was not at all satisfied by the answer and demanded a fuller response. Sir Chips agreed to return to the matter later in the meeting.
Mr Gazedis started by giving a clear statement on the club’s vision.
A Club competing to win trophies at the highest level both at home and in Europe.
A Club that believes in playing attractive attacking football
A Club that believes in producing our own resources (acknowledging that we do not have unlimited financial resources to compete with some of our direct competitors)
A Club that will only spend our own resources
He outlined what he called a ‘virtuous circle’ to enable this to be achieved. Investment in the team leading to More on field success leading to Increased fan base involvement leading to Increased revenue leading back to further Investment in the team.
He outlined the three main revenue streams – Matchday Revenues (basically flat since 2010/11), Broadcasting (rising but because of the relatively even distribution between all league clubs it won’t make much of a difference to Arsenal compared to the other clubs) and Commercial Revenue (specific to Arsenal and has doubled in the last two years)
Overall our revenues have risen about 80million per year in the last two years and are now standing at approximately 340million. He explained that this represents a precious resource and one which must not be squandered. It is available but must be used wisely.
He outlined the very large investments being made at Colney and Hale End to improve the facilities and return both centres back to being class leading. He also hinted at a new and bespoke home for Arsenal Ladies so we will have to watch out for further announcements on that one.
He then covered the three threads of our approach to squad improvement :-
Youth Development – We cannot afford to buy in all of the players we will need in the future and will have to continue to produce our own players so are continuing to invest heavily in scouting to find the right talents, coaching staff and facilities to develop them and playing opportunities to enable them to become the finished article.
External Recruitment – this will be the exception rather than the norm for squad players. Exceptional talents will continue to be identified and recruited when they are available. Again with our resources being finite these may well not happen every season (my words but in line with his tone). We won’t spend money on players for the sake of it or to appease commentators.
Player Retention – we are currently in a good place with a relatively young squad most of whom are on long term contracts. Our wage bill is now at 192 million up from 164million last year.
He started by saying that when he arrived there were 80 people at the club and the share price was 400; today those figures are 550 staff and he doesn’t know the share price as he doesn’t own any (the answer is somewhere between 15 and 16,000). Furthermore he doesn’t want to own any.
He described his period as falling into three distinct phases – the first being relatively easy as we were always challenging for honours and this lasted till 2005 (ish). the second phase covered the period of building the Emirates and was far more difficult, his objectives being to keep the club in the Champions League to help pay for the stadium. He compared our record of 18 successive CL appearances as second only to Real Madrid who are one ahead but accepted that by itself that isn’t enough. The third phase he says started two and a half years ago and puts us in a position to again challenge for trophies.
He now has 20 people feeding him information, statistics and advice on a daily basis where 18 years ago he only had his own eyes. His main issue now is to decide how much of the advice he needs to act on that day..
Will we win the Premier League this year? he asked. His answer was that we will certainly be in the fight for it. He also re-iterated that he isn’t afraid to spend money (despite his reputation) and that he is more motivated and committed to his job than ever.
Questions to the Board
These went on for far longer than usual and I have a lot of work to do to present both questions and answers. I will do this in a follow up article over the next few days.