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The Usmanov offensive

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Mihir Bose | 13:42 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2007

Word reaches me that advisers to Alisher Usmanov have been going through the Arsenal share register with a fine tooth comb, to try to identify shares they can buy.

The target for the moment remains to get to the 25% blocking stake. The board are confident that they and their friends and associates have over 50%. With Stan Kroenke having 12.8% and Red and White, Usmanov's vehicle, having 23.16% this leaves nearly 15% around in the hands of small shareholders.

However, the Usmanov exercise is to find shareholders with 50 or more shares and I understand there are some 20 or so of these shareholdings.

If Usmanov can tempt them with upwards of £10,000 per share, an amount he has already paid, there may be sellers. This will ease Usmanov's path to getting to his target of a 25% blocking share-holding.

This holding is important for Usmanov because, as the Arsenal board get friendlier with Stan Kroenke, Usmanov needs to stop any plans the board might have to thwart a possible Red and White take-over of the north London club. Such plans could include an arrangement with Kroenke but any such scheme would require a 75% majority and, if Usmanov has 25%, he could stop it.

This week has seen a massive charm offensive by Usmanov with the British football press. Clearly this goes hand in hand with a different kind of charm offensive being directed at the Arsenal shareholders.

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