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Arsenal's suitors start saving for summer sales

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Matt Slater | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 31 March 2010

At some point between their Champions League date in Barcelona on 6 April and a neighbourly visit to Tottenham eight days later, the future of Arsenal should become much, much clearer.

The north London club's on-field prospects, its off-field image, its place among the giants of the game, all this hinges on a decision leading shareholder Stan Kroenke must make by 12 April: match, sell or stick.

That day, a Monday, is 60 days after US car-bumper king Shahid Khan made a $750m offer for 100% of the St Louis Rams. Kroenke owns 40% of the NFL franchise and has until then to respond. He can match the offer, accept it or hold on to his minority stake.

Option one is unlikely as US rules prevent him from owning an NFL team in St Louis while he also owns NBA and NHL teams in Denver, which leaves options two and three - a £200m choice with enormous implications in north London.

Colorado Crush owners Pat Bowlen, Stan Kroenke and John Elway celebrate victory in Arena Bowl XIX
Kroenke (centre) is not known for big statements of intent but he will have to make one very soon

If Kroenke chooses to sell, he will breathe life into the sleeping beauty of British sports news, The Arsenal Ownership Mystery - a titanic takeover battle with Cold War connotations and a great English institution as the prize.

Three years after the rapid reactions of Arsenal's charmingly aristocratic board put this tale to bed, it is starting to stir. And this time there appears to be little the likes of Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham can do about it.

It is tempting to portray Arsenal as a reminder of the way we were - the marble halls and all that - when in truth it has been to the fore of the Premier League's embrace of globalisation. But the Gunners have maintained a link with the owners of the past, a link other top clubs have severed, a link that is likely to break in the coming fight.

In the blue corner is Stan "Mr Pepsi Center" Kroenke. In the red corner Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born media and metals oligarch with ties to the Kremlin and pockets as deep as his mines.

Kroenke, who is connected to the Wal-Mart dynasty by marriage, first appeared on Arsenal's radar when he bought a 9.9% stake from ITV in 2007. He has been accumulating steadily ever since, particularly in the last year when he has more than doubled his holding via regular dips into London's PLUS market, a specialist exchange for smaller companies.

After Monday's £60k purchase of seven more shares, the 62-year-old is now just 10 short of 30%, the point at which he must make an offer for the rest. It's here that a Rams windfall could come in very useful, particularly as another 32% of Arsenal equity is believed to be his for the asking (for the knockdown price of £170m).

Those shares, almost 20,000 of them, belong to Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, the third and fourth largest shareholders at the Emirates.

Fiszman sold 5,000 shares to Kroenke for £42.5m a year ago and, after a frosty start, now enjoys a good relationship with the American on Arsenal's board.

Since that sale, however, the Swiss-based tax exile has reportedly been diagnosed with cancer. Fiszman is fiercely protective of his privacy so nobody outside his immediate circle really knows how he is faring. The early signs are said to be encouraging but it remains unclear if he is fit enough for the rigours of a football boardroom.

And he should know. Bracewell-Smith, former vice-chairman David Dein and ex-managing director Keith Edelman are among those to have been out-manoeuvred by Fiszman's combination of cunning and ruthlessness.

You can probably add Usmanov to that list, too, but they don't call him the "hard man" of Russian business for nothing.

The 56-year-old and his London-based business partner Farhad Moshiri entered the fray four months after Kroenke, when they paid Dein £75m for his 14.58% stake. A month later they had added another 8%, and by early 2008 the keen fencer was Arsenal's biggest shareholder, with just over 24%.

Unfortunately for him, this move put everybody's guards up. Much-publicised legal difficulties in the Soviet Union and an aggressive business style seemed to spook the fans and directors.

The latter group were the bigger problem as, under Fizsman's guidance, they entered into a pact, or "lockdown" agreement, to not sell shares to the Uzbek raider or give him a place on the board. This had the knock-on effect of boosting Kroenke's appeal and his shareholding - suddenly his money wasn't so bad after all.

Deprived of what would normally be a rightful place on the board and unable to acquire shares from fellow directors thanks to the lockdown, Usmanov's Red & White Holding vehicle came to a halt and chances of a restart seemed unlikely as other parts of his portfolio struggled in the global downturn.

But he didn't go away. In fact, he kept visiting his two luxury boxes at the Emirates and, as his wealth started to recover last year, he also picked up more shares (albeit at prices higher than the £8,500 Kroenke was typically paying) to take his holding to 26.25%.

More significantly, he also tried to build bridges with the Arsenal support by offering to underwrite a £150m share offering last summer. Sensing the frustration of the fans at the club's apparent inability to compete financially with Chelsea, the Manchester clubs and Spain's big two, Usmanov's timing was smart.

The board, perhaps fearing anything that might boost Usmanov's popularity, blocked the idea and restated its faith in a business model based on the Emirates' massive match-day revenues, Premier League broadcasting deals, the much-anticipated Highbury redevelopment dividend and Arsene Wenger's managerial genius.

And as models go, it's pretty much the best there is among Arsenal's "peer group" in English football: conservative, sensible and stable. But it could be better and Kroenke and Usmanov (and probably Wenger too) know it.

In this blog I wanted to set the scene for what could be as big a story as any in English football this year (outside the twin campaigns for the 2010 and 2018 World Cups). To do this I have had to go backwards.

After Kroenke shows his hand in St Louis - and right now everybody is just guessing - I will take the story forward with a closer look at the squad and the business these two rivals are sizing up.

Soon after 12 April there is another key date - 1 May. That is when Kroenke's potential offer price for the remaining 70% of Arsenal drops from £10,500 a share to £8,500, a "saving" of £87m.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Arsenal's disparate shareholders - everybody from the aristocrats to the diamond dealers to the retired taxi-drivers - will sell to either suitor, but money does tend to talk.

If Kroenke takes Khan's cash, expect that chat to get louder. And if Usmanov tops up his war chest with a London share debut for his Metalloinvest piggy bank , the noise will become deafening.

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  • Comment number 1.

    It's certain that Arsenal will change over the summer. Of the two options, I'd rather Kroenke. The Nuggets and the Avalanche are two very well run franchises, and that form should allow Arsenal to compete with Europe's best for the top players.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've said all along that Arsenal would only fall into foreign hands when Danny Fizman was ready for it to happen. If Mr Fizman is now unwell then it seems inevitable. However, I still think a 100% takeover is unlikely, more (as Matt suggests) Kroenke taking the easy 30% odd available and settling as the largest shareholder with a 65-75% stake of the club.

    As for Usmanov - it won't happen. Becuase Fizman won't sell to him. Simple as that.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Whatever happens, I really do hope Arsenal isn't sold to the fat Uzbek bloke. He's not be trusted at all. He has attempted to cover up his criminal past using expensive lawyers, but it won't work. The board is onto his trickery and if that horrible day comes that Arsenal is sold, I hope it'll be the American who gets it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Please dont sell!!!
    As you say in your article
    'a business model based on the Emirates' massive match-day revenues, Premier League broadcasting deals, the much-anticipated Highbury redevelopment dividend and Arsene Wenger's managerial genius.'
    Why, just as english football seems to be getting a reality check do Arsenal need to jump on the wagon? Why not try and control the premier league first and put a cap on investment if it only provides artificial wealth.
    I even feel sorry for Man U and hope that the Glazer's are forced out. They are mercenaries that are recouping their money through the fans.
    Yes football is a business these days but first and foremost it is a sport and lets keep it that way.

  • Comment number 6.

    Money, Money, Money. It's all English Football is about. Fleece the fans, promote the brand, must get promoted/ 4th place/ stay up/ because we will make more money!

    The heart and soul has left English football. Time to turn out the lights.

  • Comment number 7.

    My hope is that regardless of who takes over at Arsenal, the style of management remains sensible. In all likelyhood new regulations will be introduced to force finacial stability into football, and in that situation Arsenal already have a set up that would allow them to suceed.

  • Comment number 8.

    "foreign players, foreign manager, foreign owner - what a joke arsenal are!"

    Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool are all the same. Most premiership clubs are these days.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is a fantastic piece of investigative journalism. I'm struck by the obvious amount of work that was done to obtain, structure and set out the numerous facts involved.

    It is a really good bit of writing, and a pity the rest of the BBC can't match the style and standard of content.

  • Comment number 10.

    I very much hope the current shareholders won't sell, but sooner or later it's clear it's going to happen.

    However the new owner of Arsenal won't - or at least shouldn't - change the way Arsenal function. A new owner doesn't make the stadium bigger and doesn't make the seats more expensive (could they really make it much more expensive at the Emirates?) so our option really is to use a wealthy owner to loan the club money. It's still debt and what we are striving to avoid. Granted the new stadium put us into a huge debt, but it's realistic, can be paid off and financially had to be done.

    Keep Wenger in his post for as long as possible then move him to the board. If we lose the current shareholders and heritage of the club at least let's maintain our ethics about how a club ought to be run.

  • Comment number 11.

    @Surely The Bat Survived

    id love to know who you support? Arsenal are one of the ONLY clubs who, whilst having a large debt due to the emirates devlopment, are built on a viable business model that looks at maintaining expenditure below the money coming in.

    yes in order to compete with the really big boys this may have to change, however an injection of cash for purchases, without breaking this model, is possible should kroenke (my preferred) or usmanov complete the expected takeover.

    how may clubs in te hpremier league are now run by english managers, boards/owners and have no foreign players.

    its comments like your's that show how niave and blinkered some peoples views are on football are and who don't appreciate the game when it is played the way it should be

  • Comment number 12.

    The blog has set the scene well.Change is coming but I hope those with the shares & the money have noted the discontent from fans of Liverpool, ManU & ManC about the way their clubs have been mismanaged. Money doesn't guarantee success, the whole package has to be right and you have to take the fans along with you. Arsenal are playing Barcelona tonight & next Tuesday, I am going to both games which will cost me quite a lot of money, but these are the games all football fans dream of. Just don't take our loyalty for granted, or I'll be coming to games in the Dial Square kit...

  • Comment number 13.

    Excellent blog.

    The sensible business model is something I'm very happy with at Arsenal, and if the new owner is willing to stick to this model and run the club as a business, rather than spending millions to chase success, then this is fine by me.

    I hope that the members of the board who have implemented this model stay in their directorial roles to keep the ship Gooner sailing a steady course.

  • Comment number 14.

    "foreign players, foreign manager, foreign owner - what a joke arsenal are!"

    Maybe if more English people stopped worrying about "foreigners" and embraced globalisation, then the English would be more succesful. This could even lead to an English businessman having enough money to own and run a top club, it could lead to better English managers, who can spot worldwide talent and employ better tactics and encourage players to pass rather than hoof. It may even lead to better English players who could go on to win a major tournamnet!

  • Comment number 15.

    Mr. Slater, can you expand a bit on the Fiszman out muscling others story? I've never heard it. Thanks.

  • Comment number 16.

    As a keen follower of both Arsenal and the NBA, I would not a problem with Stan Kroenke taking the helm at the Emirates. Wenger would be under no strain as Kroenke lets the Head Coach/Manager of all his teams take care of business on the pitch. The Denver Nuggets are a quickly emerging superpower in the NBA under his ownership. He would provide the financial resources for Arsenal to compete with in the transfer market with Man City, United and Chelsea. Also the wage restraints at Arsenal would allieviate causing the current crop of players not to be persuaded to go elsewhere, ie. Flamini, Adebayor.
    All in all I am in favour of Stan Kroenke taking over the Arsenal!

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    If carlsberg made football blogs ...

    very interesting and really well written. I had heard about the basics from what we get fed through the main papers.. but it always has simply amounted to X increases shares.. will he have to buy ? Y increases shares too .. maybe he's going to buy !
    To hear the background to it all is immense.. it's quite a story too .. Kroenke has slowly gone up in my books .. but let's see what happens now ...

  • Comment number 19.

    i want arsenal to stay as it is no takeover from kroenke or usmanov we dont need their money we are doing well without their money and arsenal have always been a tradiontal club run traditionally but if i was to pick one to take over it would have to be umanov because he has more money to pump into the club than what kroenke does

  • Comment number 20.

    Fantastic blog, Matt. I've been following the Arsenal owner debate for a fair amount of time now, but I didn't completely know the ins and outs of it all - thanks for all the good research!

    I, however, would not like Arsenal to take on new ownership - if I'll be honest, I'm quite happy having what we've got! We're just about to become a sustainable club, with debt figures estimated to be as little as under £100M and we've got a really good team that's developing season upon season, so all I'm wondering is, do we really need it right now?

    All the same, if it's as inevitable as it's beginning to sound (which I really don't like, because I slam the idea of another Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour in the Premier League), then I think I would prefer to have Kroenke. Like Stevem, I am an avid follower of the NBA as well as an Arsenal fan and looking at the success of the Denver Nuggets right now, it seems to be the right sort of model, whereby the owners only discuss financial matters, and let the coaches and playing staff do their own thing (within reason, of course), essentially what Arsenal are doing at the moment, which would be just fine. However, if Usmanov's anything like Abramovich, then I sincerely hope we don't let him own the club.

    The only main worry I'd have would simply be regarding budgets - if we're relying on the millions of an owner, even if they're limiting it to so many millions, then what would happen when they leave? We'd end up having another transition phase, where the club will realise that it's got to offload players to remain viable and would essentially decimate the team. I really hope this doesn't happen, but it's a possibility nonetheless.

  • Comment number 21.

    As a lifelong Arsenal fan and season ticket holder my club means everything to me

    I've always been proud of Arsenal's ownership model, shareholders with family ties to the club going back many generations who don't take a penny out of the club are a rare if not non-existent commodity.

    However, I've come to terms with the fact that Arsenal will be sold and if it is, and providing he uses his own capital to buy the club without following the lead of the Glazer and Laurel&Hardy at Anfield, then I'm willing to back Mr Kroenke.

    The guy has what it takes to lead us into the 21st century and understands what it takes to build successful sports clubs. His record in the US is commendable.

    But ultimately I'm still not convinced.

  • Comment number 22.

    I suppose the third possibility is that someone is out there in the wings, biding their time, waiting to strike?

    You're not suggesting that the fans should buy it, I see, Mr Slater??!!

  • Comment number 23.

    If Either takes over and puts money up for transfers, it may finally stop Wenger using the 'I have no money, my squad costs less than others' excuse he trawls out every time Arsenal fail to win something.

    Aside from that though, look at Liverpool and United. They are in a mess financially because of the Americans. Villa have an American backer who seems to be doing it better but they are hardly setting the world alight with limited transfer money and a small squad. Why would Arsenal want to sell to either? Surely, the club is the most important thing and if they have a perfectly sustainable business model, why would any Arsenal fan want to change it? They seem to be doing pretty well without foreign investment or is the possibility of an Abramovich-style infusion of money too much to miss out on? I have always wanted football to retain an English base or is that a rose-tinted, old fashioned view nowadays? Arsenal hardly ever field an English player these days, they could soon be an entirely non-UK club from top to bottom by the end of Summer. they may just as well move to another country as well for all the Englishness they will have.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sorry to hear about Danny Fiszman's health - wish him all the best.

    Alas it won't happen but I would like to see his and Lady Bracewell-Smith's longterm relationship with Arsenal result in their shares being offered to fans and small investors rather than billionaires. Perhaps setting up a trust, allowing various levels of investment, not just the 8,500-10,000 per individual share.

    One can dream!

  • Comment number 25.

    Our new owner must run the club to please the fans, that means keeping our best players and recruiting proven quality.

    The owner must not purchase the club with a huge mortgage as with Liverpool and Man Utd - this is unnecessary debt which would leave the club hamstrung.

    Arsenal are uniquely positioned to generate sufficient funds to compete in the transfer market; whilst still returning a profit for the owner.

    Keeping Wenger is key to future success as he has proven he can spend less money to be more effective that many of his Premiership rivals.

  • Comment number 26.

    Arsenal have some of the best young English players coming through around right now, Walcott, Gibbs, Wilshire, Lansbury, Ramsay (Wales).etc
    Under the current structure of the club this set up works and works well and these type of players can go on to achieve what the likes of Fabregas and Van Persie are doing now,,,, Glamour signings that potential new owners would no doubt would push for, as with Chelsea and Man City etc, would push these players development back.
    Arsenal supporters (the ones that actually go to the games not the ones who get excited by how much money you spend on a player) know and understand this.
    That said a few quid for a proper goalkeeper wouldn't go a-miss.

  • Comment number 27.

    - "foreign players, foreign manager, foreign owner - what a joke arsenal are!"

    Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool are all the same. Most premiership clubs are these days. "-

    United do try to keep a backbone of British players -
    gone are the days at Arsenal of Seaman, Keown, Dixon, Campbell, Adams, Parlour, Platt even...
    Crikey Arsenal used to be the backbone of the England team back in't day.. still we couldn't win anything but should have..

    Anyhow back on topic - it can only be good for Arsenal to sell, if you had a bit more wonga you'd be competing with the big guns.

    It's dangerous territory though - business moguls are not about club ethos through and through are they..

    Hope the red knights pull it off too!

  • Comment number 28.

    personally, we should be out there wearing Dial Square kit. Boycott the stadium and let's get local local board of supporters to approach the bank and buy the club back

  • Comment number 29.

    and bring this logo back and not that corporate thing

  • Comment number 30.

    Whilst there's part of me that's proud that Arsenal is now the only top four club without a foreign owner (despite the foreign manager and players), I also feel like the extra investment could help the club in terms of new recruits. But the truth is Wenger probably has had money to spend over recent years anyway, yet he has continued to be relatively frugal and develop his younger players instead.

    Yes, a foreign owner might be more than happy to splash the cash (e.g. Abramovic), but it all depends on who has final say on transfers. Wenger is, quite rightly in my view, held in such high regard at the club that he would probably retain final say on transfers, and let's face it, big money transfers are just not his style - even purchases over £10m are rare for Wenger! In other words, a big money owner would not guarantee big money signings as long as Wenger has final say on transfers.

    For this reason, I for one, hope (perhaps in vain) that the stalemate continues and Arsenal Football Club continues to be owned by a variety of shareholders, not by a single foreign owner.

  • Comment number 31.

    Prefer Arsenal shareholders sold to neither but if I had to choose it has to be the American. Fed up with these Oligarchs ruining football clubs. FIFA must bring in a rule to stop clubs spending money not generated by the club. Man C and Chelsea are a joke and I fear Arsenal could end up the same if the Oligarch takes control

  • Comment number 32.

    This is an excellent article. I am very impressed by the quality of the sport journalism.

    It is a shame that to succeed in this modern day, all football clubs have to be sold to a foreign owner. I was reading an article yesterday about the German system and how fans pay about £12 to watch a match. This is what should happen in the UK.

    Arsenal are one of the best run clubs in the UK, if not the best. It is a shame if it is going to be the next chelsea, manu u, liverpool, or man city.

    We need a cap on footballer's salary. That is a start for all the clubs to get back on their feet. Once the UEFA ruling "that clubs can only soend meoney which they earn" comes into effect, things will be much different.

  • Comment number 33.

    Afternoon all, thanks for reading/commenting, here are some early replies:

    Steveweiser (1) - I think you're right that a change is coming but I'm still not sure of the timescale. Summer makes sense from a football point of view but these billionaire-types work to their own schedule. SK also has time on his side. He's in the stronger position and can sit back while Arsenal slowly gets more like a US sports's AU that has to push things if he is serious about taking over (as opposed to just making money on a strategic investment).

    Retiredno66 (2) - You're right, Fiszman is crucial here, which makes things tough for us as he doesn't say much at the best of times and clearly has more important things on his mind at the moment. That said, his antipathy to AU's approach is well known so it is very very unlikely he will sell to Red & White. But you're right to raise the issue of whether either of them will actually need/push for 100% (30% is the mandatory offer for the rest and 75% takes the company off the stock market, but you need 98% for compulsory purchases). You could control Arsenal with a lot less than 100%. The other thing to mention here is the 12% not owned by SK, AU, DF and NBS. A lot of those will be held by people who have had them in the family for years, perhaps even going back to the Woolwich days. £10k is a lot of money to turn down for a piece of paper and invite to the AGM.

    First Gooner on the Moon (4) - I'm going to skirt around the legal stuff, if you don't mind, as it is all out there should you want to find out all about it (and the legal campaign AU waged here to repair the damage....a campaign that caused a lot more damage, in my view). I don't really have a personal view on AU v SK as I haven't met either (yet) but I think it would be a mistake to dismiss AU out of hand completely. Regardless of what you make of his problems in the 80s, he's a survivor and obviously a successful businessman. Is that enough? I'll let others make that decision.

    abtl (5) - I agree. I like the Arsenal ethos too and I certainly prefer it to what the Glazers are doing in Manchester. I hope that whatever happens at Arsenal this summer the key players take heed of your point about football not being just another business.

    JamTay1 (6) - It can seem that way, can't it? But I think we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that British football has always been about money to some extent, it's just the amounts and currencies that have changed. We should also probably admit that all that cash has brought some positive changes (better facilities for fans, better pitches, better players etc). But I agree with you that it hasn't all been good by a long stretch.

    Austin_SJ (7) - You're right. The foundations have been laid. A fantastic stadium in the biggest and wealthiest city in the country, a rich history and strong international brand name, a young and talented squad, a great scouting network and youth set-up, and Arsene Wenger. But that is why Arsenal is so attractive to billionaires who think they can do just a tiny bit better!

    Simon (8) - Indeed, the Premier League is a reflection of the country. We've always been a trading nation open to the world. What we're seeing now is the "Wimbledon effect" (we provide the stage, the world provides the actors) writ large in all areas of British life.

    Democracythreat (9) - Thanks very much. To be honest I was a little worried this blog would seem a bit old hat for some readers. There are a lot of very well-informed Arsenal fans out there and much of this won't be news to them. I just thought I would have to set the scene for everybody else, though, as this story has been dormant for about 2 years. Glad you appreciated the refresher.

    Tee See (10) - You're getting into stuff I want to talk about next time ie what SK or AU will want to do with Arsenal. But you're right to identify that there isn't that much room for radical manouevre...yet, anyway. Agreed, the matchday revenues are basically maxed out. The stadium is full (give or take some spare seats in the posh areas of late) and the tickets are already very expensive. You might be able to squeeze a few more drinks and hotdogs out of people but that's about it. The broadcasting side is done centrally and there is clearly some upside on the overseas deals (today's Ofcom announcement MAY impact the domestic side, though). Will they always be done centrally? Hard to say, but I see no huge impetus for change at the moment (despite talk of internet millions to be made abroad). The big problem for Arsenal is on the commercial side and that is where both SK and AU will feel they can improve matters. But that's all I'm going to say on that front for now as I'll have nothing new to say in a week or so!

    Right, that's it for now. I'll come back later to do some more, perhaps whilst watching the game. Should be a cracker. Good luck

  • Comment number 34.

    33. At 2:20pm on 31 Mar 2010, Matt Slater wrote:

    ...but you need 98% for compulsory purchases...


    It's 90% for compulsory purchase.

  • Comment number 35.

    We need a takeover now forget about this rubbish model its not taking us anywhere we need to compete with the big boys get in some billionaires like kronke and that uzbek block to pump some much needed money into the club. Im sick and tired of this greedy boards action selling all of our best players like henry,vieira and flamini,hleb and many more down the years and not spending the money im not saying we should be like chelsea or city but this club just hasnt had any money finically to buy any world class players its all been spent on the stadiums debt or clubs other debts its just ridicolous.

    Take out old peter hill wood that mans been arsenals chairmen for years we need a change in face and bring some owners that will actually bring successful to the club in terms of sliverware and bringing in players we need change now forget about the future i mean in the present day.

  • Comment number 36.

    A takeover by either of these two suitors fills me with dread. It may not be so bad to start with, especially if Kroenke takes over - he seems to know how to run a sports team properly and has the personal financial backing.

    But what happens when he decides to sell? There will be no telling who might take over and what their financial situation might be.

    Just when some supporters are looking at ways to rescue Manchester United from the situation they find themselves in, the Arsenal board - traditional, institutional, generations-long investors in Arsenal - are looking to sell their share of this great club for a fast buck.

    And to anyone thinking that a takeover would boost our transfer kitty, I would point you to the latest set of accounts published earlier this year: Wenger has over £100M ready to spend on players. He doesn't need more than that; indeed he will struggle to use much of that at all!

    Arsenal are presently a well-run, securely-financed and consistently successful club. I see no reason why their financial model should be tampered with. Selling up like this would ruin a fine institution perhaps for ever.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good blog. It's all a far cry from when a risque Arsenal investment concerned a new set of freshly cut blazers with accompanying Italian silk ties.

    Call me sentimental but I prefered the Highbury days, one nil wins in the freezing north London rain, hoping for a flash of brilliance from Merse or a thundering header from Big Tone.

    In a strange way success and the dazzling modern era have made my own beautifully carved Arsenal cross harder to bear. Not for the team, the manager, the football or even the board, but for the gilt. The concept that everything has a price and can be attained with money. The idea that a team is there only to entertain; that a fawning, ficle, ignorant crowd of footballing nouveau riche has the right to sit in silence, to come and go as they please, show their backs to a team in victory and abuse them in defeat. It makes me sick to be honest.

    I bear it becasue I'm a Gooner and I love the Arsenal. If Silent Stan does the deal I'll swallow that, but if the Uzbek gets his hands on the club I think that would be too much to take.

    As for Englishness 'Boof', that is important but Wenger has never compromised on quality because of any national bias, nor should he ever do so. When you add to that the fact many domestic players seem to have dubious off field habbits and come with ridiculous prices tags I get his stance, and Arsenal's youth system now seems to be bringing through the quality - domestic and otherwise - that AW saw was lacking when he first became Le Boss. This is not about England, it's about the soul of Arsenal Football Club.

  • Comment number 38.

    Good day all. Hi Matt

    A nice read about a great team in English footie when it comes to money managament. I especially enjoyed this:
    "If Kroenke chooses to sell, he will breathe life into the sleeping beauty of British sports news, The Arsenal Ownership Mystery - a titanic takeover battle with Cold War connotations and a great English institution as the prize."
    Brilliantly analysed

  • Comment number 39.

    If Kroenke is the right person to take over remains to be seen. As he`s silent, we don`t know what his intentions are, so I`m not convinced yet. Furthermore, I don`t like the idea that a single person might own two thirds or even three quarters of a big football club like Arsenal. It would be much more in the interest of the club to have the shares divided into two or three owners, simply to give Arsenal much more security for the future.

  • Comment number 40.

    As long as whoever takes over Arsenal does not change the way the club is run then I am happy. However, I don't think that the Russian or wherever he's from will do that--I reckon he will turn into an Abramovich and splash the cash, and, when that doesn't work, get rid of Wenger.

    The American seems to be alright unlike most American owners (Hicks, Gillet and the Glazers). He keeps his mouth shut and that is an encouraging sign.

    Owners may bankroll the club but they should be in the background and only intervene when there is a desperate need to. The manager should be in charge of day-to-day running of the club.

    If Kroenke or whoever he is lets Wenger get on with it and keeps out of it then let him take over.

  • Comment number 41.


    The 'backbone' of British players that Utd maintain came at a massive premium - Ferdinand, Carrick, Hargreaves, Rooney - all of these players cost more than Wenger has ever spent on a single player. The others (Scholes, Giggs, Neville) are the ageing ones who will soon go the same way of Adams, Bould and Dixon.

    If the alternative is to pack our side with the likes of Heskey, Downing and Crouch, I'd much rather our foreign legion.

  • Comment number 42.

    So called plurality of ownership has served us well so far. And with new UEFA rules coming in over the next few years regarding not spending beyond what your revenues allow, it's Mans U & C and Chelsea who will have to migrate towards a business model like our - rather than us moving towards theirs.

    Usmanov is untried and untested when it comes to major sports brand and club ownership - and I therefore believe he would treat the club as any other business. At least Stan Kroenke has a good track record of sports ownership in the US. I'd rather things would stay as they are - but if they have to change, Kroenke would be the lesser of the two evils.

  • Comment number 43.

    #39. At 2:55pm on 31 Mar 2010, Peter

    The fact that he's on the threshhold of a takeover is not him, it's the Takeover Rules or whatever it is that says whenever someone reaches 30% he's bound to make a formal takeover bid.

    #40. Englandexperts

    I agree with you 100%. I'd rather he keeps silent and obliges with whatever is Arsenal to the core. The thing is, if he starts talking (think of West Ham in this instance). Things fall apart. And I like the fact that for him to buy Arsenal, he sells some bits of his stake in his US teams, he does not borrow all from the banks

  • Comment number 44.

    "This is a fantastic piece of investigative journalism. I'm struck by the obvious amount of work that was done to obtain, structure and set out the numerous facts involved.

    It is a really good bit of writing, and a pity the rest of the BBC can't match the style and standard of content."

    This, basically. One of the best articles I've ever read!

    Really interesting to read so much depth on the subject.

  • Comment number 45.

    I'd also like to put my vote in for Kroenke when the somewhat inevitable happens. He has the background in sports ownership, and seems to be successful in what he does over there. However Usmanov comes over personally, he just doesn't seem to have the background to run a sports club.

    I've been proud of the way Arsenal have held out so far against foreign ownership, but it seems now inevitable that we're going to end up being taken over.

  • Comment number 46.

    I hope they do not sell...Arsenal are the second best run team in the premier league (just behind Aston Villa) The business models employed at Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea do NOT work. The English league will not be the best league in the world forever. We have seen it before, Italian teams used to dominate, then the clubs imploded, the same happened to Spain. The same will happen to England. If Arsenal keep thier current structures, they will be able to survive this-the other big 4 (and Man City) will not.
    Arsenal might not be able to compete money wise with Chelsea, Utd, etc -and that is very frustrating for fans at times- but our stabilty and progress is remarkable.
    I dont like cliches, but if aint broke, dont fix it!

  • Comment number 47.

    Whilst the idea of Stan buying instead of Alistair seems preferable, its worth remembering that neither of these 2 are actually die hard Arsenal fans who only want the best for the club.

    Ultimately, they are businessmen who want to buy something to turn it into a profit. Neither will throw pots of money at it like Abramovich and Mansour (for whom Chelsea and Man City are play things)but will more than likely adopt the Glazer or Hicks and Gillet route. Despite the fact that Stan has seemed to do good things in US sports, he has little incentive to do that over here.

    The absolute best to hope for would be the Randy Lerner at Villa approach.

    If our club is going to be sold, just ask yourself why they want it.

  • Comment number 48.

    Matt, thanks for informing me that SK maybe be selling his share in the Rams as that is new information to me. The rest I think most knowledgeable Arsenal fans already knew with regards to the happening of the club and its finances. But thank you for giving a good in depth report on it. The last person to try something was Mr Bose with his Tottenham bias.

    I would also like to wish Danny Fiszman well and hope he is on the road to recovery.

    Why do you think that any of the other shareholders will want to sell their shares? Have you heard anything? The only reason Dein sold his shares he was removed from the board so he wanted revenge and thought he could force a takeover with AU.

    Lets hope there are enough shareholders who don't want to sell and those that do have a large shareholding sell to the supporters trust as fans can buy a small stake of a share through them.

    Most of the shareholders have had them for decades and I can't see why they would want to sell. It's not as if they need the money as most are already multi millionaires. If NBS wanted to cause problems she would have done that when she got removed from the board but she didn't sell to anyone.

    For other people who don't know there has not been any dividends paid out to shareholders for a very long time. All profit goes back into the club.

    Depending on the next stage of redevelopment around the Stadium I can see the club having no stadium debt or any other debt within the next 5 to 10 years so there is no need to have a rich billionaire to fund us.

    UEFA have new rules coming in in 2015 to stop the billionaires spending as the club has to be sustainable to get into either the Europa Cup or the Champions League.

    to #35. I think you need to check all your facts. The board are not greedy. They didn't tell Wenger to sell those players you put down. It was down to Wenger and the players themselves. If you look at the players that have moved on then it has helped others either come through or helped to rebuild the squad just like Annelka. Bought for about £500k sold for about £23 million. Also how many of those players have gone on and improved as a player?

    The stadium debts have nothing to do with the squad or Wengers buying ability either as he has plenty of money in the transfer and new contract fund.

    If it wasn't for the likes of Hill-Wood and the board we would surely be in a much worse position. They have also brought in the likes of Gazidis to improve international marketing. But remember that we will not be doing the tours around the far east and the USA to bring in extra revenue because Wenger already has his pre season plans that are in Austria as usual which helps the players with altitude training and fitness. He will not move and tire out his squad for a few extra quid.

  • Comment number 49.

    Brilliant blog, really interesting to see an expert's insight into this, the future of my beloved Arsenal!
    I would personally go for Kroenke as he seems to have more security (with the wall-mart billions) and is less of a heartless businessman than Kroenke.
    Hopefully he's more of a Randly Lerner than a Hicks-Gillett or Glazer.

  • Comment number 50.

    Kroenke definitely seems the best option if the club has to be sold, but the recent history of English football tells us to be wary of investors. Despite the lack of silverware - a problem 90% of all clubs face - Arsenal have a good thing going. They have an internationally renowned manager and style of play. Tonight, they'll play the best team in the world in the quarter-final of the most prestigious tournament in the world. They are financially secure and supporter unrest is minimal.

    The only thing that upsets our apple-cart is the constant speculation about our players, manager and boardroom.

  • Comment number 51.

    Sell to an American ha ha ha ha! See what has happened to Man U. That would be the end of Arsenal we know

  • Comment number 52.

    3 things come to mind:

    1. I really hope neither are Roman Abromavich types. Sure money is great but stability is priceless, for example the 2 most successful Premiership managers have had their jobs for well over a decade, David Moyes has turned Everton into quite a force with far less money than his rivals. If a new owner comes in and fires Wenger then the next manager within 2 years we will rapidly descend into instability.

    2. Kroenke is not liquid to that extent, common sense would suggest he will heap the debt onto the club to pay off. He would have to sell other properties he owns to generate the capital to do so, and when all his properties generate income it's not logical for him to do so (from a self interest perspective).
    I'm not so scared about this though, we had high levels of debt since the Emirates was constructed and Wenger kept us in top 4, quarter finals of the CL and this year potentially even running for the PL title. As stated before Wenger is the key and we need to get him a new contract.

    3. I wouldn't panic yet, so long as it's business as usual and Wenger stays as savvy as he is in the transfer market (this season was possibly his best in years, the only failure being Bordeaux over valuing Chamakh, who is now coming for free reportedly). I'd just hope the new owner has the common sense to not fix something that isn't broken.

  • Comment number 53.

    I don't see why everybody feels that if Kroenke comes in (or Usmanov for that matter) Arsenal will suddenly become one of the 'throw money at it and hope it works' clubs. Nor why others think that we desperately need the money just to to compete at all in the league. We're still in the title race right guys? Having this money doesn't mean that Arsenal will automatically drop all their tools and call in the contractors to do the job for them, so to speak. For starters, I doubt Wenger would agree to that kind of approach. But a bit of extra cash would free up more funds to chase relatively big-name players, like all the names that are bandied about in the summer but never materialise. When we're not on the hunt for new faces then the surplus can be put into the youth system, and used to continue the hard work we've got going on already, that seems to be paying dividends with the likes of Walcott, Ramsey, Wilshire et al. So there's no need for a complete overwrite of the way we do things, but a bit of cash would provide Arsenal with a bit of financial flexibility when the situation demands.

    And, @TheBoltonsMum, yes, people do buy football clubs to make money. But by far the best way to make money from a club is to help it to win games, so you can attract more sponsors, sell shares for more etc. If Kroenke/Usmanov have any sense they'll see that Wenger has the right way of going about things, and from the sound of what Kroenke has done in the States he seems like the kind of guy to trust him. If not, then they're not the kind of people we want running our club, no matter what they can promise.

  • Comment number 54.

    There seem 2 different types of American owners and Kroenke seems the more preferable type.....he has the money. Also it seems to me the American money is a bit more stable than the Russian oil/metal/equity money of the Russians. I Am sure Kroenke would be more of a back seat passenger rather than a back seat driver, You do worry about the Russians wanting to be too much "hands-on" like abramovich changing managers when he doesn't win anything. The Glazers haven't interfered too much at Man Utd, the Utd fans are just ratty because the Glazers haven't got billions to spend on their team. I Think if I were an Arsenal fan I would be quietly rooting for Kroenke

  • Comment number 55.

    What a great blog. Informative, well structured, well researched and even-handed.

    What a contrast to Press Conference Watch!

    Could Labour's plans to offer up a 25% stake in clubs to fans be another twist in this tale?

  • Comment number 56.

    Are we all mad? What do The Arsenal want all these Yanks and Russkies for. Look at the damage their ilk has already done to the Premier League.

    Do you for one moment believe that a man of Arsene Wenger's intelligence and ability will last under a regime of 'me first'?

    Second division of the Premier League here we come.


  • Comment number 57.

    I know it's a bit of money, but I don't understand why large shareholders like the directors are selling shares at apparently undervalued prices. Arsenal is a stable concern with large but serviceable debts, and good cash flow. It's not running up more debts like other big clubs. If I were on the board, I'd rather hold onto it and reap the dividends when Highbury's completed and we start winning silverware again.

  • Comment number 58.

    Well done Matt. A good summary of the events surronding my beloved club. Although there is a lot more on the devolpment side of the Arsenal model then the Highbury Square project, the Queensland Road project could also a big one.

    Many excellent comments too. Although I find myself entirely disagreeing with post 35. Nasri_is_the_French_Gooner, who seems to be looking for a quick fix with a "throw money at it" soloution which to me is all that is wrong with the game in the PL at the moment.

    The quick fix for a trophy gain will always back fire in the end, I'm sure that if you asked most Pompey supporters if they would prefer their FA cup victory or having their club in a healthy position in the PL with a what securer future then many would choose the later.

    This story still has "legs"and I'm looking forward to your next installment.

  • Comment number 59.


    no, we're ratty because his takeover plunged us 716 million into debt...

  • Comment number 60.

    Matt as you put it the idea of Arseanl being a run like a franchise, is in my view, something that should worry the arsenal fans. Whilst Kroenke, may be a silent man in terms of allowing the coaches to do their job without interfering too much, I personally, wouldnt want to see a clib as great in its stature as Arsenal, to get saddled with some more debts, in order for Kroenke to make the teams he owns in the states, finacially better off, in order to attract 'bigger stars'.

    Personally, I think that if someone on a football club board, is foreign, and wishes to be either the major shareholder/ owner of the club, they must adhere to some legal clause that they are not allowed to 'move' the debt they have from their other clubs/franchises onto football clubs in this country, which is essentially what has happened to Liverpool and Man United. I dont think any fans of any club in England or for that matter my home country Scotland, should be the ones who pay the price for these already obscenely rich men to further their 'business interests', as unless they have a real passion for the club, they are not going to listen to the most important member of the club-the one who follows through thick and thin, the one who pays alreday over-inflated prices to attend matches, the one who gives the team the vocal backing they need, the one who misses work in order to attend a sport he loves-I refer, of course, to the club supporter(s).

  • Comment number 61.

    If the alternative is to pack our side with the likes of Heskey, Downing and Crouch, I'd much rather our foreign legion.

    Couldnt agree more Medieval-Evil, good post

    A lot of English players have far bigger ego's than they have actual ability, desire & skill, many are just over payed & hyped up by the media, I'd prefer the american from what I gather. I know Wenger dosent like signing players for over 10 million but I think Arsenal do need to compete with the others on wages so they can attract players who are the finnished article when their contracts expire like Sol for example years ago.

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm not an Arsenal fan, but I respect the club as a beacon of financial sanity in the high-stakes poker-game that English football has become.

    Although we had some warning of this, Portsmouth changed pretty quickly from a solid mid-table club into a financial basket-case. Apparently, under new (and surely sensible) Uefa rules, heavily indebted clubs will be barred from the Champions League in two or three years from now (and where would that leave the financially-overstretched Man Utd and Liverpool?) New competition rulings may reduce what Sky can afford to pay for rights in the future. Costs are out of control, ticket prices have shot up, and fixtures are arranged with no reference to fans' travelling difficulties.

    Now compare this with my club, Barcelona. Owned not by Yanks or by Russians but by 179,000 fans who elect the management. Not significantly indebted. A superb pipeline of young players. Colossal support in Cataluyna. Not greedy enough to take shirt sponsorship - we support Unicef instead. And has the refusal to sell out harmed the team? Hardly. The team that blew away United last May is the best club side on the planet.

    Or, for that matter, look at all the top German clubs, where fans have the largest shareholdings under the "50% + 1" rule.

    So I really hope Arsenal hold out. Perhaps change their articles of association to block any takeover. Do a share-sale or distribution to fans. But, anyway, remain British-owned, and financially sound.

    I wish Arsenal well (except in the Barca tie of course!)

    There is a huge ob

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    Evening all, thanks again for posting, I'll try to reply to a few of the more eye-catching ones during the second half, which has started very poorly for the Gunners.

    Ian (14) - Well said. It doesn't have to be all doom, gloom and get your thieving mitts of the queen's swans, does it? There are enormous potential benefits to the hosts of any world-class enterprise be it in sport, business, culture or whatever. What depresses me is that British football has learned more of the wrong lessons over the last 20 years than the right ones.

    Imagine Reason (15) - No probs but forgive me for not providing full footnotes, much of this is based on gossip, some well-informed, some just idle. DF has been a power-behind-the-throne-type figure at Arsenal for more than a decade. He is widely heralded as the driving force behind the move to Ashburton Grove and the resulting redevelopment of Highbury (Square). For him that was the move that would boost Arsenal's spending power AND keep it out of the hands of billionaire investors. David Dein, who sold a lot of his shares to DF in '99, was the first to question this strategy. DD became convinced Arsenal was being left behind by Chelsea/Abramovich and Man Utd/Glazers - the Gooners needed a billionaire of their own, hence his courting of SK. DF disagreed, the pair fell out, DF squeezed him out, DD retaliated by selling the rest of his shares to AU, DD now persona non grata at DF-controlled Arsenal. With AU now the bad guy, SK became more attractive and he, DF and rest of board made peace. This meant NBS's 16% (which he inherited wasn't needed anymore to block AU so DF is (believed) to have eased her out too. Nobody is quite sure why but it's clear there was a lot of resentment from NBS, who represented a pretty ancient family holding in the club, to DF, who was in charge despite being new and absent in Switzerland. There's also talk she was amenable to AU's plans. Anyway, late 2008 she was out. Edelman actually went six months earlier and he was a victim of SK's changed status from bogeyman to trusted partner. KE had been vocal (along with old Etonian chairman Peter Hill-Wood) in the anti-SK camp a year earlier. With DF now in partnership with SK, KE had to go. Simple!!!

    Stevem1991 (16) - It's funny you bring up the Nuggets - they are, without doubt, SK's sporting passion. He couldn't explain the offside rule if his life depended on it but ask him what a full-court press or pick-and-roll is and you'll get chapter and verse. And his passion for the game is definitely starting to rub off on the team. They're no world-beaters, though. What's more impressive, if that's the right word, about SK's Denver sports empire is how integrated it is. Basketball, ice hockey, soccer, arena football, name it, he's got it and it's all cross-promoted and marketed. Less impressive is his NFL record...the Rams are hopeless and look like being dreadful again this season. SK has only managed to avoid completely ignominy in St Louis because he's a minority shareholder and a local boy. Otherwise he'd be chased out of town.

    Anyway, that's more than enough for one day. Some game, wasn't it? Great comeback, huge amounts of character....and a hint of good fortune. But reflecting on the full 90 minutes, I can't help thinking we have seen exactly why Arsenal almost need something to happen at the top. I love the Fiszman/Wenger philosophy, I just wonder if it's almost too pure for these less noble times. For Arsenal to be considered a truly great team they've got to start beating the Barcas of the world and winning Champions League titles. They might need a Kroenke or Usmanov to get them over the hump.

  • Comment number 65.


    Excellent article with great research backing up the sources of funds for Stan and Usmanov. Keep up the great work and keep us appraised of any developments.

    BTW the satisfying thing here is that either Stan / Usmanov will be using equity rather than increasing the debt burden to fund the change in ownership. Coupled with the continued sale of the Highbury apartments and the ongoing delevering using cash from other sources, we should have substantially lower debt in 2 years time allowing for several years of investment into the team. Long may Arsenal continue to be in the upper echelons of the PL!

  • Comment number 66.

    "I love the Fiszman/Wenger philosophy, I just wonder if it's almost too pure for these less noble times. For Arsenal to be considered a truly great team they've got to start beating the Barcas of the world and winning Champions League titles. They might need a Kroenke or Usmanov to get them over the hump."
    Portsmouth got over "the hump" a few years back, won the FA cup.

    What are doing now?

    Man City spent a gazilion squid, what will they win this year?

    QPR were taken over by bilionaires, a few years and 200 managers later how are they better off?

    Given the choice I´d take the Wehger/Fiszman stability and natural growth model everytime Matt.

  • Comment number 67.

    Great blog Matt, thanks for facts more than gossips.

    I am proud of our operating model however, it won't stay for much longer. If I have a choice, my preference would be SK due to his sports background and as long as he does not borrow ala Glazers, we will be fine. The Debt has come down to 190 million and property side is debt free. We still have over hundred flats to sell and whole of Queens road development, which means all the sales from that will be PROFIT. Half yearly figures showed profit of 35 million and with property sales, the year end figure would be much higher. I seriously believe that we can repay stadium mortgage much more quickly now and even if we dont, yearly repayment of 18 million is more than manageable. Squad needs some additions esp Defence, a DM for Song cover, and Chamakh on free transfer. Even if SK comes in, I don't think he needs to make huge cash injection as long as he does not take more loans and re-invest the money for next couple of years into the playing squad, which I repeat does not take major over haul at all. Arsenal are not doing well commercially in global market as Madrid and MU do, and that's where SK may be able to generate more revnues as he has excellent sports background.

    Bottom line is whether SK buys the arsenal or remains under current ownership, we are financially stabler than our top competitors in the league. I hope trophies will follow soon but I will take finacial stability for shorter term success any day of the week, keeping in mind that we were in RED when we were at highbury, could have been another Pompey if stayed like that. Another fact is that no other team who moved into new stadium was able to stay in the same league for longer, however, we remained competitive, in top 4, champions league etc even though no trophies to show for it. As I said earlier, I and most of Gooners will take finacial stability for short term success.

  • Comment number 68.

    Most Arsenal fans are portrayed as wanting to win *something*. I actually don't care so much as long as they play entertaining football.

    Yes, it would be nice to see one or two top level strikers (the equivalent of Drogba/Rooney/Torres) in the side, but if there's no way to achieve that without going into Liverpoolesque or Unitedesque levels of debt, then forget it.

    When the football bubble bursts, Arsenal will be far more able to deal with it than many other English sides.

    Does the Wengineer (who incidentally has a Masters in economics) have any say or influence about Arsenal's ownership? Do those involved in the decision making ever ask his opinion?

  • Comment number 69.

    I dont wish to criticise too much but is there anything new in this article? There isnt much to be fair. I follow all aspects of the club from the first team, reserves to the youth team, the all conquering ladies and indeed the community things we do and of course the financial side of things. Any Arsenal fan who really wanted to know things about the club would already know these things.
    There's nothing earth shattering here at all. Almost 95% of the "news" is there for anyone with a half interest in the club to see at any time. Why you seemed to be getting alot of praise for what is, at best, just a decent article was beyond me.
    At least it was for a few minutes then I realised really why you seem to be getting alot of praise from my fellow gooners: We're just not used to sensible, no hidden agenda articles that basically don't mug us off.
    You don't seem to have a chip on your shoulder about the club, it's manager, players or boardroom members. You don't have that usual pessimistic attitude to anything you have written about the club in this article. Most unlike your fellow bloggers on the BBC tend to be like. (Phil McNulty anyone?).
    Here there's no compliment written with a view to giving a sly underhand written dig in the ribs later on. There's none of the usual anti-Wenger diatribe from journalists who are given a mental kicking in a Wenger press conference and then humiliated, take it out on the keyboard come blogging time.
    There's no jingoistic or xenophobic remarks that some dullards spout on here simply because "we're British" and Johnny Foreigner "Doesn't like it up 'em!"
    So well done Matt..not so much for the article which is just about average but for not reverting to type with all the rest of your so very much esteemed "colleagues" at the BBC, Sky, et al.

  • Comment number 70.

    These corporate parasites exploit the loyalty and fanaticism of fans to the detriment of the game and its future. We need to take our game back. As cash is all that they are interested in the only way to hit this scum is through their pockets. There needs to be a series of coordinated weekend boycotts where fans from all those different clubs affected by this exploitation stay away from fixtures in their droves.

  • Comment number 71.

    Thats a brilliant article Matt, I am not an Arsenal fan, but I found this interesting to read and really well put together.

    Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 72.

    Great Blog Matt. I do enjoy the behind the scenes detail. If you want more specifically on Arsenal there is a great book. Arsenal (with an accent over the e) by Alex Fynn and Kevin Whitcher is absolutely suberb on this detail.

    From my own observations, taking a quick look at the Arsenals accounts, its quite interesting how well balanced the books are. Though our revenue has shot up thanks to TV and the new stadium, so has our base costs. A drop in say, TV money, would be a struggle to finance I think.

    Arsenal should move up a financial gear if the recent additional sales at Highbury Sq and the development rights (just sold for opposite the ground) have actually lead to anywhere near the £100mn off the debt that was intended pre economic melt down. (I think the average price of a flat was lowered 10-20% at Highbury Sq).

    The second and third jump in fortunates will be in 2011 with the new kit naming deal and 6 or so years after that when the stadium naming rights are up for grabs.

    Looking forward to your additional details, and may I take this opportunity to wish Mr Fiszman a speedy recovery, the impact he has had on Arsenal will go down in sporting history. We were out played last night but no real football enthusiast can doubt we sit firmly at the top table.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 73.

    Thanks Matt, that's really great news. But according to the recent 1/2 year financial records, Arsenal was doing well, compared to others, and perhaps this just made some " business men" greedier! But as a fan, I think the conservative manner in which Arsenal is being run is good for the future because of its sustainability, and I believe as others have pointed out, we are a better situation than many other clubs, and the club MUST not be sold to any " Business man" as we have seen its consequences with the rest like ManU, Pompey, L'pool!

  • Comment number 74.

    A couple of extra points that may be worth noting - it's not just Kroenke's ownership level in Arsenal that has to be remembered but rather his 50% ownnership of Arsenal Broadband. If Sky are indeed forced to cut wholesale prices of football to other carriers the whole future of broadcasting of matches could be up for reassessment. If clubs go their own way and 'broadcast' their own matches via the internet (to paying members only of course) then ownership of those rights is going to be gold dust.
    As far as being owned by a 'big rich owner' is concerned two points have to be remembered. Firstly it's not the money that they put in that causes the controversy (e.g. Man Utd.) it's the money that they take out in fees and loan repayments. Secondly the new UEFA regulations are expressly designed to curtail ' financial doping'. This means that Arsenal, unique amongst big clubs as regards its business strategy, will see their major competitors reduced in terms of what has been seen as their financial clout. Arsenals position will be one of relatively huge income and very little (maybe even zero) debt to service.
    Kroenke will not need to put any money in and has no record of taking money out. He will make his profit on broadcasting rights and will ensure that Arsenal are always funded sufficiently to be a hugely attractive and marketable brand.

  • Comment number 75.

    Hello again, I've just got back to the office after a day's filming at Olympic Park. Got 15 mins to kill so I thought I'd reply to a few more posts. This time in reverse order.

    TheFinalSalute (74) - You make a very good point about SK's modus operandi. I want to say more about this in a week or so but his Denver operation is very impressive. He owns the ticketing company, the offical broadcaster, the venue is full every other night (it was infamously double-booked one night) and he obviously owns all the teams. Vertical integration. I would expect more of that kind of thing at an SK-ran Arsenal.

    Harrison Kaziro (73) - Yep, the 1/2 year results were good but I don't think there were any surprises in there for SK or AU. They know what kind of business Arsenal is and they've got pretty good ideas of what kind of business it can be in the future. As I've said before, those results were a paragon of financial virtue compared to most top football teams but they weren't quite as amazing as the spin from the club would suggest. Nothing to panic about but there is room for improvement there.

    Ian Kaye (72) - My comment above leads nicely into the astute observations you make about Arsenal's "base costs". There was one very interesting number buried in the accounts that the club didn't flag up...wages up 17%. And you're right to notice how "balanced" things were. Take out the late Highbury Sq sales and Man City's money and you're looking at a small loss. I'll say more about this next time.

    RVP1968 (69) - Yep, guilty as charged! To close followers of Arsenal there isn't much new here at all. But as I hinted in the piece - and said outright in my first reply - I always intended this as a "first chapter" and I had to set the stage a bit for everybody else. It also helped me get my notes in order! In regard to your other points, I'm genuinely flattered but I think it's easier for me to come across like that on a story like this one. Phil McNulty and the other chief football writers have got a tougher job. Their stock in trade is opinion and it's opinion on something as subjective (tribal, really) as football. That's not easy. I'll stick to more objective things like business plans.

    buymeespresso (68) and peter parker (67) - I've put you two together because I think you're coming from the same place. I also think you're correct about Arsenal's longer-term view being the right one for the current economic climate....any economic climate really. We should all live within our means. Which brings me to.....

    Holloway2Holland (66) - Well said, sir. And I'm really pleased to hear you and other posters here say the same thing. And you're right to pick me up on that comment. Allow me to have another go.

    "I love the Fiszman/Wenger philosophy BUT AT TIMES LIKE THIS I CAN SEE WHY SOME MIGHT THINK it's almost too pure for these less noble times. For Arsenal to be considered a truly great team they've got to start beating the Barcas of the world and winning Champions League titles. THAT'S WHY SOME THINK they might need a Kroenke or Usmanov to get them over the hump."

    Right, that's it from me on this one. Thanks again for all the contributions. Good luck in Barcelona.

  • Comment number 76.

    Dirty, Sneaky Russians....

  • Comment number 77.

    Unfortunately football is all about the money these days and basically the successful teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea are buying their trophies by acquiring the most expensive player registrations.

    Instead of Arsenal mirroring this business model where the supporters money ends up in the pockets of the millionaire players I would like to see a wage/transfer cap so that the league becomes more competitive.

    Unless this happens the league can only be won by splashing the cash which has little to do with football in my opinion.

  • Comment number 78.

    @75. Thank Matt, excellent reply sir.

  • Comment number 79.

    " Kroenke will not need to put any money in and has no record of taking money out. He will make his profit on broadcasting rights and will ensure that Arsenal are always funded sufficiently to be a hugely attractive and marketable brand."

    Matt, you supported this view and I'm afraid I think that you are both wrong.

    Kronke purchased 4% of the shares last year from Richard Carr at £10 50 per share and he has yet to pay for them, which would concern me enormously if I were an Arsenal fan.

    Under city laws he has to make an offer to purchase all of the remaining shares once he has acquired 30% of the shares and as far I can see the only way he can do this is through leverage. It's OK to say he has never done this in the past, but he has never taken on an investment that would cost anywhere near as much as Arsenal.

    This is a game of Chess, Kronke is on the board and as a board member has to report the the shares he has purchased.
    Because Usmanov has been ostricised and isn't on the board he doesn't need to declare his share purchases until his share holding reaches 30%.
    Around 18% of the shares are in the hands of small shareholders ( although AST hold 12% of them) and for all we know Usmanov could theoretically hold as many shares as Kronke.

    The crux of the matter is that Kronke purchased the shares (or more correctly transferred his shares) in May of last year and if Kronke were to obtain a min of 30% of the shares he would have to offer to pay £10 500, rather than £8 500 per share, the biggest figure he has paid for shares in the past 12 months, the small matter of around an extra £90 million.

    It's possible that Kronke wants to do the best for Arsenal and to be a good owner, but he may find himself in a Magnier/ Glazer situation whereby he is forced to pay far more than he originally budgeted for the club and be left with no option other than to leverage the debt and leave the club with an enormous debt if the main shareholders take the money and run.

    As to those saying the board shouldn't sell up and maintain the status quo I'm afraid it's already too late, the majority of sales have been sold and the old guard are powerless to do anything about it.

  • Comment number 80.

    If any Arsenal fans think I am scare mongering or being a WUM (believe me it's not the intention - I am trying to be objective) I found the following article very informative.

    From an excellent article by Arsenal stalwart Nigel Phillips article following the AGM:

    Commentary on STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS AND ANNUAL REPORT 2008-09 by Nigel Phillips

    The two biggest commercial deals are with Emirates (shirts until 2014/15 and stadium naming rights 2020/21) and Nike (recently extended by three years to 2013/14) were front loaded to generate cash needed for the stadium build....These deals were important to get the stadium fully funded but replacing these annual football revenues from the expected property profits has not happened. They generate a reducing amount of cash and are way below fair market pricing, as demonstrated by recent deals at other clubs.

    The estimated opportunity cost is now close to £20m pa, with total commercial revenues (£34m) about half those achieved by competitor clubs [Deloitte Football Money League 2009]. The Commercial team has been strengthened, but even if the two big deals are not renegotiated, new commercial partners need to be brought on board and overseas markets further developed."

  • Comment number 81.

    87 million pound profit or loss on or by May 1 means there could be some major deals being struck ?

  • Comment number 82.

    Is there a UK anti Russian conspiracy? There's the sour TNK-BP business deal, there's the failure of the Russians to extradite the London radiation spy in the Litvinenko restaurant plutonium death. Will Chelsea be allowed to win any more trophies under Russian ownership?

  • Comment number 83.

    Buying players and superstars to buy success, short termism. If Wenger had the money there'd be no WALCOTT, RAMSEY, definetly no Song, Bendtner, no Eboue, there'd be no Eduardo or Almunia, we would not have Vermealen, nor would we have Diaby, we'd not have Fabregas, We would not have the Arsenal academy built on frugalness, skill, intelligence, by stealth by vigilance built by desire built by the knowledge that it's about a sport that does not require money to get success, it's about hard work and team spirit. The rewards for long term endeavour, sweat, toil, integrity and vision are immense and long term. What is about to happen at the Emirates is the greatest story to unfold in modern day football greed buy buy buy gluttony. Money is not the answer.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi Matt,

    Apologies for a little delay in responding back to your comments (#75).
    I hope you would be able to answer it, may in your next blog.

    You rightly pointed out that if you take away ManCity money, you may be looking at a small loss here. Let's clarify that first:
    The half year results announced, showed pre-tax profit of over 35 million, out of that, 25 million came from player's sales and about 10 million from property profit(after paying all the debts as I pointed out earlier that property side is debt fre now). Most importantly, it did not include any TV money, neither from PL or Europe which is a HUGE chunk of money considering we are in QF of Chamipions league and finishing as high as possible in the PL will generate it's own money on the top TV revenues. If you factor that in and even take away all the city money, there will be no loss. I hope it makes sense.

    I agree with greenmarkfo(#80)re loss of money from shirt deals as we took all the money upfront to restart once stalled Emirates project when Sir Robert McAlpine's builder actually left the site due to lack of cash. However, I firmly believe that the income (not just profit) generated by the sales of remaining 131 flats plus queens road project over next 3 years or so will generate enough money to compensate loss of shirt revenues. As all debts on the property side are paid off now, only debt we have is the stadium mortgage which is 190 million. Yearly repayment is 18 million or so over next 11 years, and even with increasing salary budget, it will be manageable. My only hope is that whoever buys the club, if any, does not take debt ala Glazers and Yanks to plunge us in more debt. On the positive side, they don't have to inject huge cash in playing side as almost all the first team and up and coming players are now on long term contract and I feel Wenger will buy a defender and striker at least on free transfers (Chamakh is one and I can see Upson coming back) plus may be a Defensive midfielder to cover Song.

  • Comment number 85.

    Here is little "devil's advocate" comments:

    I'm bemused by the support Kroenke enjoys and hate Usmanov gets here.

    American ownership of English clubs like ManU and Liverpool has been in stark contrast with Russian owners at Chelsea.

    Football is not No.1. sport in US; and noone can be fooled by statements like Glazers love football. They don't know a pip about football, they don't care, for them our passion for football is just a BUSINESS, same as Wall-Mart or McDonalds. US owners are hated by almost every fan in the top 2 clubs and have wreaked financial havoc and strong popular dissent among fans. Chelsea's fans, by contrast, adore Roman for his true devotion to the club. How many times does Liverpool or ManU owners actually go to a game? Roman is a true team fan and he is there at every game.

    Ownership/Financing style: Russian owners do not trust banks, partners or intermediaries. They prefer direct ownership, and buy a club with a cash and only if they have cash. Kroenke, same as Glazers, would not mind to borrow, borrow against Arsenal's cash flows (ticket sales, franchise, TV revenues). This is a valid business model, yet, not sure if Arsenal fans would love to see Fabregas and Arshavin sold to fill cash shortfalls, if things are not good in one season or two. Kroenke did not pay for the shares he already owns. How can you expect him to pay for balance? 200M is not enough.

    Author says Kroenke would squeeze other shareholders and only offer a reduced price from 10'500 to 8'500. All of these remaining shareholders are life-long Arsenal fans. Do you seriously trust Kroenke's statement about love and devotion to Arsenal and its fan base? Do you seriously trust he will do what's best for club and not what's best for him? Do you seriously expect him to invest into new players when he has no money to pay for share? As much as Abramovich and ManCity owners are criticized, they're true football fans, they will forgo club's debts to them for clubs benefit and their personal loss. It's something you should not expect from Glazers and Kroenke.

  • Comment number 86.

    Stans the man and I believe that he is on board with the philosophy of the club. I think that the stratergy of aquiring shares has the full support of the board as a counter balance to TFU a truly dispicable character.

    If SK gets the 30% then he only needs to offer to buy the others shares, they do not have to sell, hopefully at this point TFU will take the cash and his profit and go and buy ManU the team he actually supports.

  • Comment number 87.

    First of good blog!
    Of course Kroenke has been around sport for a while and everybody expects him to have the knowhow of running a sport club. My only fear is clubs that have been bought by Americans haven't been doing so well. And yet the owners, one way or the other, have had experience in the sport business. Relatively, financial wise, Chelsea is doing well. I'm not taking anybody's side here but if possible I would have loved it if we can follow the same path as Barca. Fans owned club! After all this people are just business men, they don't really care about the clubs and their fans, but their money. It's my belief that clubs should be owned by the people that loves them; not by those who try to squeeze money out of them.
    Whatever happens this summer, I'm praying that we do not follow the same path as Man U or Liverpool. In all honesty, I'm more nervous about it than excited. God help us!!

  • Comment number 88.

    Hi Matt

    I have waited quite a time to post a comment. In your blog of 11 February you commented:

    ‘There was even one supporter at the High Court who talked about the club earning as much as £8m by winning the FA Cup. He was right to say it is possible. It's just not very likely’.

    I remember that because it was me. Well today, through sheer determination and inspirational management, it looks a lot more likely.

    More importantly you subsequently commented:

    ‘The winding-up petition is suspended but HMRC's legal costs will be paid by the administration (an unusual step) and a first meeting of a provisional creditors committee must be held by 26 March.

    Can you advise whether the PCC has met? I cannot find any reports.

  • Comment number 89.

    Matt I just read on the Eurosport website that Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith has appointed some bankers to sell her shares in Arsenal. If this is indeed the case then surely I don't understand why she is doing this unless it's to make sure someone other than SK or AU is to buy the shares as she must have all available contact details for either one.

    What are your thoughts if the developments are true?

  • Comment number 90.

    Hi David, good to hear from you. I did at least say it was possible! Fair play to Pompey, it was a cracking result, and you're right to flag up Grant's managerial smarts. He set that team up brilliantly on Sunday.

    In regard to your second point, good question and one I haven't been able to get an answer to as Andrew "I'll always be available to you guys" Andronikou has not answered my last half dozen messages. I understand, however, that we are going to hear something significant by Friday. He is determined to push on with the CVA asap and thinks something in the region of 30p in the pound can be returned to creditors. His final figure for the debt is now a smidgen under £100m. The key things here are that this sum includes Sacha Gaydamak's £30m+ and is now too big to give HMRC the 25% (on amount owed) it would need to block a CVA.

    So things appear to be moving along on both fronts. Still a way to go yet, though....on both fronts.

    Nick_Hove_Actually, you read right. Lady NBS has appointed a US private equity firm called Blackstone to find a buyer for her 16%. Interesting move, intriguing timing. I'm just about to bash out a quick blog on it now. Will probably not be published til morning, though.



  • Comment number 91.

    The choice has to be clear. I don't like Kroenke particularly and am weary on piling debt upon debt as has happened at Manchester United and Liverpool. But it is apparently clear to me that Usmanov has to be blocked at all and any cost. The man has an extremely odious past (to put it mildly), pretended to be a political prisoner (which was far from the case) and a man with such a shady reputation (well deserved) should not be allowed to control a club like Arsenal.

    I would prefer Arsenal to be a fan owned club like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. Clubs (in my opinion) do not belong on a stock market and should not have rich billionair owners who can do what they please (see: Man Utd and LFC). I've always believed that all those billionaires coming in would be bad for football in the long run because most of them only pretend to care about the particular football club they own.

    For example, does anyone seriously believe for even one second that the Man City owner was a life long Man City fan? I think not. I do hope UEFA will push through its proposals to have clubs debt-free (or else: no Euro cup for you) and ban structures where a billionaire can bankroll a club. Clubs ought to self-generate the money based on their results, and not like Man City be artificially pushed up the tables. Succes first, generate money after. I hope that one day all clubs will be fan/community owned.

    Just ask Portsmouth fans how they liked the rich owner experiment. Man United debt has increased and Liverpool could well be the first of the socalled 'top 4' to be in serious trouble. If only they had listened to Steve Morgan.


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