Arsenal has rejected reports of a record £1.5 billion takeover bid from a Middle East consortium, adding that majority owner Stan Kroenke has no intention of selling his stake in the English Premier League club.
The Sunday Telegraph said the consortium, backed by funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had already requested a meeting with American billionaire Kroenke, ahead of what would be a record takeover bid for a football club. The newspaper said the bidders would like to unite Arsenal’s ownership, putting all the shares together in one fund. The offer is said to be for the full 62,217 shares which have been issued, paying around £830 million for Kroenke’s 66.83% shareholding. Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has repeatedly stated his goal of securing outright ownership of Arsenal. Usmanov, and his business partner Farhad Moshiri, have been steadily increasing their stake in the club in recent times and currently own 29.96% of Arsenal through Red and White, their investment vehicle. Usmanov has been a vocal critic of Kroenke’s management of the North London giant. Russia’s richest man has no seat on Arsenal’s board and has been frozen out by Kroenke.
The Telegraph reports the consortium believes it can work with Usmanov and would provide substantial transfer funds and lower ticket prices at the Emirates Stadium. Ticket prices – amongst the most expensive in world football – along with the sale of star players such as Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas has led to fan criticism of the Kroenke regime. However, Arsenal communications director Mark Gonnella told Reuters: “Stan Kroenke is committed to Arsenal for the long term and has no intention of selling his stake. There has been no contact from any potential investors.” Gonnella added that Kroenke, who also owns the National Football League’s St Louis Rams, had never sold any of his sports investments.
A bid source told The Telegraph: “Arsenal is at a pivotal position at the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like Liverpool. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club. We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get this kind of valuation ever again. We think that bidding now is the key because it is going to give every shareholder maximum value. We are giving them peak valuation. The amount of capital required to pump into Arsenal to make it competitive within England, Europe and the world means that the valuation cannot go any higher.”