US businessman Stan Kroenke agrees bid to buy Arsenal
American businessman Stan Kroenke has increased his shareholding in Arsenal to more than 62% and agreed to make an offer for the rest of the club.
A full takeover was triggered after Kroenke Sports Enterprises acquired the stakes of Danny Fiszman (16.1%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9%).
The terms of KSE's offer have been agreed, with Arsenal shares priced at £11,750 and the club's value at £731m.
Kroenke first bought 9.9% of shares in Arsenal in 2007.
"We are excited about the opportunity to increase our involvement with and commitment to Arsenal," said 63-year-old Kroenke, whose company also controls basketball's Denver Nuggets, ice hockey side Colorado Avalanche, American football team the St Louis Rams, and Major League Soccer outfit the Colorado Rapids.
“I've been talking to a colleague of Alisher Usmanov's. I was told he is absolutely hopping mad. He feels that, in the words of his colleague, has been stitched up by Arsenal. He is thinking of is whether or not there is any way he can make a counter offer. That has got to be fairly unlikely simply because it is unlikely they [Fiszman and Smith] would be able to reconsider their decisions to sell to Stan Kroenke. ”
"Arsenal are a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger.
"We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success. I am delighted that Peter Hill-Wood has agreed to support us by continuing as chairman.
"We especially wish to acknowledge and thank the board, Danny Fiszman and the Fiszman family as well as Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and her family for the confidence they have had in me over the past years and in allowing us to move forward in this more prominent role."
Most of the remaining shares left for Kroenke, who is nicknamed Silent Stan because of his reluctance to do media interviews, to purchase are held by Uzbeki billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
Usmanov does not have a seat on the Gunners board but owns 27% of Arsenal's holding company.
"I have worked with Stan Kroenke at board meetings over the past couple of years and I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart," said Gunners boss Wenger.
"He understands the club's heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the club in a way which protects our long-term future."
STAN KROENKE FACTS
- Born in Columbia, Missouri
- Worth £1.7bn in 2010 Forbes list
- Made his money in property
- Married to Ann Walton, part of the family that owns the Wal-Mart chain of shops
Arsenal chairman Hill-Wood echoed: "The board of directors and I consider it a key responsibility to protect the ethos and spirit of the club.
"Mr Kroenke, although relatively new to Arsenal, has shown himself to be a man who values and respects the history and traditions of this very special club that we cherish.
"We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its future."
With Arsenal carrying debts of £147m, the worth of the north London outfit can be put close to £900m.
Any fears the takeover by Kroenke, which would take the number of top-flight clubs under foreign ownership to 10, might load the Gunners with more debt have also been allayed.
The statement to the stock exchange read: "The offer will not be funded by way of any debt finance (banks loans, payment in kind loans or other debt or quasi-debt interest bearing obligations) for which the payment of interest on, repayment of or security for any liability (contingent or otherwise) will depend on the business of Arsenal."
BBC sports editor David Bond
“On Monday, the last domino fell. Arsenal, the Bank of England club, are now another franchise in an American sports tycoon's portfolio”
KSE are happy with how Arsenal are run but it is unclear what Kroenke's stance is when it comes to the transfer market.
Wenger's side are currently second in the Premier League and still in the hunt for the top-flight title as they bid to end a trophy drought going back to 2005 when they won the FA Cup.
And, while Usmanov has previously called for Arsenal to invest heavily on the pitch, the club's board of directors have steered a more cautious financial path.
They have focused on using the additional income generated by the 60,300-capacity Emirates, which opened in July 2006, to lower Arsenal's debts.
The stock exchange statement continued: "It is their [KSE's] current intention that, if the offer becomes or is declared unconditional, they will continue to support and adhere to the self-sustaining business model hitherto pursued by the board of Arsenal."
Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who was deputy commissioner of the MLS before moving to his current role, expects Kroenke to back Wenger.
"Arsene's under a long-term contract that runs until 2014," Gazidis told the Arsenal website.
TOP-FLIGHT'S FOREIGN BRIGADE
- Aston Villa - Randy Lerner
- Birmingham - Carson Yeung
- Blackburn - Venky's
- Chelsea - Roman Abramovich
- Fulham - Mohamed Al Fayed
- Liverpool - Fenway Sports
- Man City - Abu Dhabi United
- Man Utd - Glazer family
- Sunderland - Ellis Short
"Mr Kroenke's very supportive of Arsene Wenger as he said in his statement. He's a wonderful manager, so we're looking forward to Arsene's continued contributions to the club."
He added: "It's the end of an era but it's also the beginning of an era.
"I don't think there will be dramatic changes involved. Mr Kroenke has stated that he's supportive of the self-sustaining business model.
"He's been on the board, remember, for the last three years and has a good understanding of the traditions of this club and what it represents to our fans.
"So I don't think we will see dramatic changes. At the same time, I do think that Mr Kroenke brings experience in the sports arena. He's got tremendous experience in the United States and also experience now over here in England."