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Is Mr Usmanov about to takeover Arsenal?

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By Tony Attwood

Predictions of Arsenal’s imminent downfall are always interesting, and 2010 gave us quite a few of them.  The most amusing one, and the one that was talked about the most I guess, was the complete failure of the season ticket sales, and a half empty Ems for this season.

That story started a year ago, with the rumour that if you wanted a season ticket you could just phone up and get one.   Then it went on to the summer with people jumping from position 50,000 on the waiting list to being able to get a ticket straight off.

The stadium is however sold out all the time, the waiting list is still 10 years, and I suspect Arsenal v Ipswich will sell out too – without any season tickets in place (its excluded from the Gold package).

We have also had quite a bit about shareholders taking over the club with comments such as, “There’s no multiple ownership at Arsenal – Usmanov will buy the lot, and we’ll be just like Man IOU.”

And it is true.  Alisher Usmanov has been trying to buy shares to catch up with Stan Kronke and then… well then what?  I am not quite sure that anything follows from that.

Bloomberg, the financial thingy that knows a lot about money quoted Mr Usmanov as saying that “Today, we have 27%; our objective is to bring that up to a blocking stake of 29.9%,”

As I said, Mr Usmanov has been buying, and his known willingness to buy has taken the price of Arsenal shares even higher than the price they were at before.  In fact this year shares are 20% or more higher that last Christmas.   But despite his offer to buy and his obvious access to the money, Mr Usmanov has still not got anywhere near the 29.9% he says he wants.   According to the record book he has grown his share portfolio by under one tenth of one percent since he started trying to buy – even when offering way over the odds.  Which means he is stuck not even on 27% but actually on 26.9%.

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However here’s the oddity.  The shares of the Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith which are just under 16% of the show, are still on sale – and no one wants to buy.   The sale of those shares was another great story that the AAA circulated for a while.  Lady Nina’s shares were going to be bought by someone from China, and then Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, but after a while he said, “not me mate”, and it all went quiet again.  As far as I know, no one has bought any of the shares.

We didn’t actually get told that an Al Qaeda war-lord was going for the shares, but that rumour is probably next on the list.  Come to think of it, we could start the story and see if the AAA pick it up.

The point is still the point I tried to make at the time.   With all those shares you get nothing.  No dividend, no seat on the board, not even a silver membership.  What’s the point?  In fact, having now sat in the director’s section of the stand (see the tiny picture of me in the final shot of the Arsenal Til I Die event) I’ve got further up the hierarchy than whoever does buy the shares.

Stan Kroenke (now an executive director of the club) still has 29.999999% or something like that.  Danny Fiszman, has 16% stake and seems never to want to sell anything to Mr Usmanov.  According to the Guardian he is “believed to be behind moves that have frustrated Usmanov’s attempts to gain boardroom representation.”

So you are asking, (if not currently frozen to death – if you are in western Europe that is) why does Mr Usmanov not buy the Bracewell-Smith bundle of goodiese and get 43% of the company?

Because he would then have to bid for all the shares.  No problem there, except that it is 99.999999999999% certain that he would not get the 50.01% he needs.  At that point he then has to go back down to the 29.9% stake – which means he is then left with all the Bracewell Smith shares to get rid of.

So at this point he will have lost a few million pounds in the cost of the bidding, and have £100m worth of shares that he is not allowed to keep.  The chances are he would not be able to sell them (if there was someone wanting them they would be buying them from Lady N), so what he then has is an investment of £100m with no value, no income and no nothing, and which he can only redeem by reducing the price of the shares for a sale.

That would not only lose him money in itself, but would instantly devalue all the other shares he holds, and which he has been paying a premium price for.

It is in effect a non-starter of a story.  Ownership of Arsenal stays where it is.

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22 comments to Is Mr Usmanov about to takeover Arsenal?

  • Superfly gunner

    A little off topic tony but just a suggestion maybe you should try getting in touch with the organization that runs wikileaks and get them to shut down legrove and sky and any other AAA site.

    Cause I’m sick and tired of their shit It makes no sense to support a club when u dont like the players or the manager.

    They should just look for a team who has as many players in it as they think we should buy and just support that team.

    Any ways when I have time later Ill actually comment on the actual article.

    PS. love what you did to Lego

  • Alok Thapliyal

    awesome analysis Tony!! Arsenal is in safe hands.

  • Murad

    doubt anyone would want to take control of arsenal (the club theory is probably just too boring for sugar daddy) or a major English club unless they are Arab Sheikhs!

    The other thing he could be trying to do is simply talking to Kronke through the media, maybe trying to instigate him to buy more shares and takeover or just testing the waters with Kronke and the board – this to get rid of his shares if he doesn’t want them and i doubt he wants them if he cannot play with the club!!

    It seems to me the ownership could well have settled and we shouldn’t expect any major changes – not for a while!

  • Superfly I think that Wikileaks actually wants to spread more information, not reduce the amount of it out there!

    The people who are quite active at shutting down services are UKUncut, who campaign against tax avoidance. Some supporters took on paypal, Visa and Mastercard when those organisations refused to take donations to Wikileaks. You might want to take a look at them

  • walter

    On some AAA side some went wild of the prospect of Usmanov gaining control and splashing out the cash like they always dream we would do.

    But in some newspaper Usmanov would have said that he loved Wenger and called him a genius. I think the AAA would not like to read this from Usmanov. If it is true that Usmanov said those things about Wenger he might not be that bad after all. 😉

  • walter

    And if one can believe those same newspapers it doesn’t seem that Usmanov wants total control of Arsenal and that he would just want the 29,9% shares and then just have business as usual. Long may it continue like that.

  • StoneRoses

    If U has 27% of the shares, why would he want to increase to 29.99% for no apparent gain? It just doesnt make sense. And K worries me because he just bought the Rams and if he wants us too, it will be on leverage. Lady Nina wont sell her shares for anything less than 3 x U.S. gdp and so the whole thing seems locked up. It is worrying.

  • mandy dodd

    The AAA, or the contingent that actually are Arsenal fans will get themselves completely over-excited by these sort of stories. Usmanov = the return of Dein! many of them see David Dein as the only one who can save the club from our current “crisis”. The man who can change Wenger back to a winner, can rid the club if this perceived philosophy of principles over pots etc etc.
    In fairness DD did a lot for the club, bought in Wenger for a start but he was wrong on things as well, notably wanting us to play at Wembley – can you imagine the injuries we would accumulate on that pitch!
    As you say, these are usually non stories.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    1. The Press say (and you always believe what they say, don’t you?’ that Lady Nina is like Danny in not seeing Usmanov as a good thing, so won’t sell her shares to him.
    2. This may just be a bit of ‘the Qataris buying Man Utd story has run cold, what the hell can we print today?’ sort of jobbie.
    3. Tomorrow, for a day, it’ll be David Bernstein takes over at what Martin Samuel has called The Feeble Association. You’ll note I didn’t call it that, I’m saying Mr Samuel called it that. In print. He’s an East End journo who supports Mr Sullivan’s lot. Although he displays great charity in letting his boy support Chelsea……
    4. Mr Bernstein was a successful peddler of dashing French clothes before nursing Man City in its dark days in the Third Division.
    5. He is from the North West. Who isn’t these days?
    6. He sits, with his mate Phil Gartside, on the Board of Wembley Stadium Ltd.

    Did you all notice that, 24 hours before the FA made it’s decision, Mario Balotelli picks up some award ahead of Jack Wilshere, who the big black boy from Italy claimed he hadn’t heard of?

    Then Bernstein pips D. Dein for the FA Chairmanship.

    Coincidences all……..
    7. He is regarded as a ‘safe pair of hands’, which means the FA will continue doing exactly what they have been doing.

  • countryboy nigeria

    Slightly off topic but playing at the Wembley might not have been a bad idea afterall. all it would have required of us would have been a little patience and freedom from this debt that has stifled us for so long.
    Suggesting that some sites be taken off the internet smirks of repressive regimes that we are used to in africa. Western civilizations have thrived because of the relative freedom of thought and tolerance of every shades of opinion.
    I guess the question I want to ask is If Mr. Wenger decides tomorrow to say that his philosophy of spending is wrong for whatever reason, would Mr. Attwood still ” support him in all he does” or would he call him to order?
    please write an article on this so that some of us who find your opinions intriguing wont be taken for suckers.

  • Dark Prince

    Hope so the ownership situation remains the same…bcoz any takeover on borrowed funds will increase the debts. We shouldn’t repeat the same mistake that the glazers did with Manu.

  • Countryboy – the problem of what you do if your hero suddenly turns out to be an evil wife-beater who has a cocaine habit is one that faces a lot of people who do admire the work of others. We want our heroes to uphold the philosophy you believe in and be good guys too.

    If Arsene Wenger suddenly said, “yes I was wrong to focus on economics so much, to focus on winning beautifully, to focus on bringing the very best young talent from around the world to Arsenal, and instead I should have be using Shawcross, paying £25m for Adebayor instead of £2m, and going for the endless 1-0,” then I would try and find a new subtitle for Untold Arsenal, and express my support for what has been.

    Mr Wenger has developed Arsenal into a football club that is run as I believe it should be, and plays football as I believe it should be played. In truth what I support and value is the philosophy of Arsene Wenger. I believe he is wonderful at articulating it, and of course he deserves veneration in my eyes because he brought that philosophy into practical expression.

    I waited over 40 years to see football this good, so I really do believe in the man who gave it to me.

  • Sorry to butt in Tony but just to straighten out some misunderstandings; UkUncut had nothing to do with the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Visa, Paypal, Mastercard, Amazon et al.

    UKUncut protest against all those nice chaps in Big British Business who don’t pay any tax to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Wikileaks is not really part of their agenda.

    The DDoS attacks against the aforementioned companies who withdrew service to Wikileaks were infact perpetrated by a group called Anonymous, originating mostly from 4chan. They are interesting as an organisation in that they are not really very organised at all and indeed that is the point.

  • critic

    wenger, in my opinion, must or may have seen all dis hazards of “eventual” takeover. What will happen when sum1 take over arsenal through LBO? well nothing in my opinion…we now have enough talented youngsters and gr8 policy that will continue fireworks at ems, despite some ppl moans, for decades 2 come…
    we don’t need 2 buy as untold keeps mentioning.
    All in all wenger will be leaving after having prepared us for every possible future disaster.
    We just now need a big performance against a big team.

    P.S – even if he hadn’t seen it, still it’s all such a big revolution that he brought to arsenal that even it’s side-effects are so beneficial.

  • Wrenny

    Thank you Tony, interesting article.

    It seems as if the ownership situation is at an impasse. Lady Nina’s shares are not enough for either Kroenke or Usmanov to reach the majority required for a takeover, so unless Fiszman is willing to sell his stake this is unlikely to go anywhere.

    And this suits Arsenal just fine!

  • Richard B

    StoneRoses – just so you know, the Arsenal Supporters Trust has had meetings with Stan Kroenke and, although tight-lipped on some things, he was perfectly happy to say that the way takeovers of other clubs have been financed is, in his view, entirely wrong. Leveraged buyouts are not part of his strategy and weakening a club by saddling it with debt that it didn’t bargain for does nobody any good.
    He said that a couple of years ago and has been proved more and more correct with every passing month.

  • jacob

    @Country boy Nigeria

    I’m sorry but playing at Wembley as an option to building our own Stadium is a daft idea. As a temporary measure of some sort, may be it had merit but as an alternative it is a really nonsensical idea and I cannot begin to agree with Dein on that score. Both Juve and Inter hate playing at the Dell Alpi because it is not theirs they cannot plan to maximise advertising revenues or hospitality accomodation and the cannot really modify it as it is not their property… and even though the rent they pay isn’t onerous they’d still prefer to build their own stadia and have total control of the facility.
    Consider if you will that we’d be paying rent with no real prospect of ever returning to North London, and that our future would be dependent on agreeing a deal with the nobs at the FA which is not necessarily an Arsenal friendly organisation. With our own stadium built in North London near our former gaff and reachable through the world famous Arsenal tube station we maintain a historic link with the soul and root of our club… how much is that worth?

    I don’t want to be condescending to a supporter from Nigeria as Arsenal’s spread around the globe is a most welcome phenomenon but Arsenal has a meaning and a cultural resonance to its British and English fans that you may not completely understand (or may be you do understand it but don’t care) and Wenger understands this aspect of British football intimately… the link and ties a club has to a particular place. It is part of what makes our clubs (and others too around the world) so unique. Arsenal belong in North London and particularly in Islington… to have endured 5 years of ECL football and watching the maturing of this new generation of players.. but alas no trophies… is a price well worth paying to keep the club where it belongs in the community and still move it into the European elite with a modern stadium of it’s own. I won’t have it any other way and for that I will forever be grateful to Wenger and Fiszman. If they could do something about the ticket prices I’d be absolutely over the moon.. but then again I’m an adult; I understand that I can’t have everything!

  • Andy Kelly

    @jacob, although I wholeheartedly agree with what you say there is a major flaw in your argument.


  • Adam

    As a philistine where matters of high finance are concerned I ask a genuine question. If Usmanov wanted to take control of Arsenal by achieving over 50 per cent of the shares, why would the shareholders not sell to him if the offer was good enough? As I understand it, there are no dividends paid so is the the upside purely in the potential rise in the individual share price? And surely one would have to sell to realize the profit. Why, if he has no chance of owning the club or having any say at boardroom level, does Mr Usmanov even want to own Arsenal shares? And finally, would the resolution of the ownership impasse result in Arsene being more accountable to that owner?

  • jacob


    Very true.

    My point is that though we moved once the most importnat bits of the Arsenal story and the glories of the club… even our most important rivalry stems from that initial move. To have moved again would have meant a kind of defeat for me. To leave that patch of London to Spurs would have just been too much. To abandon the Arsenal tube station and even have it revert back to being called Gillespie Road would have been awful.

    Having said all that you are factually very correct.

    Ps… may I add that my comment about the Del Alpi Stadium applies only to Juve who share it with Torino. Inter share the San Siro with Milan of course. Apologies for the error.

  • Andrew Chua

    Let’s be honest. Any savvy investor would not invest in a football club. There are too many risks and money involved whilst the ROI is isn’t exactly great, if any at all.

    My view is that football investors/owners are a rare bred and monetary returns may not necessary be the tipping factor, and more likely, passion/love/plaything for football is the determinant.

  • goonergerry

    It may also be worth checking whether Usmanov has now acquired 29.9%-because I understand from a City source that he has.
    Does Usmanov not possess the kind of wealth that if he wanted to buy the remaining 20+% of shares he could by making an offer well in excess of the current market price?
    Is there any evidence that Usmanov wants to take over the club at this point? If so where is it? The statements made by his spokesmen have been consistent for some time-that he wants a blocking stake-in order to prevent a takeover.
    One scenario that could be possible is if the eventual buyer of Lady N’s shares forms an alliance with Usmanov-you then have the owners of approaching 50% of the shares of the club excluded from the Board- How workable is that? Is it not the case that continued exclusion of Usmanov from the Board may make a hostile takeover more likely?