US billionaire Stan Kroenke is set to take full control of Arsenal in a £1.8 billion deal — but fans aren't happy
- Stan Kroenke, who owns 67% of Arsenal FC, has made an offer to buy the remainder of the club.
- The deal values Arsenal, one of Britain’s top soccer clubs, at £1.8 billion ($2.33 billion).
- Arsenal’s second-biggest shareholder, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, has reportedly agreed to the deal, meaning the takeover should go through easily.
- The Arsenal Supports Trust are concerned that taking the club private will “neuter [fans’] voice and involvement.”
LONDON — Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke is set to take full control of the North London football club as part of a deal valuing the team at £1.8 billion.
Kroenke currently owns just over 67% of Arsenal FC and on Tuesday KSE, his Delaware-based holding company, announced an all-cash offer to buy all the shares in the club it doesn’t already own. The company is offering £29,419.64 ($38,116.50) in cash for each share, valuing the entire club at £1.8 billion.
KSE said it has received “irrevocable undertaking” to buy out Arsenal’s second-biggest investor, Russian-Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov owns just over 30% of the club through his vehicle Red and White Holdings.
Kroenke has been battling Usmanov for control of Arsenal for over a year. Usmanov made a £1 billion ($1.3 billion) bid to buy the American businessman’s stake in the club in May 2017, an offer that was rejected.
Usmanov’s large ownership stake means that if he agrees to the terms set out on Tuesday, Kroenke’s takeover bid becomes binding and he can force non-compliant shareholders to sell up.
KSE said in its offer that the takeover will “result in the opening of a new chapter in the history of the Club” and said that: “KSE believes moving to private ownership will bring the benefits of a single owner better able to move quickly in furtherance of the Club’s strategy and ambitions. KSE is a committed, long-term owner of the Club.”
Kroenke said in a statement: “We at KSE are moving forward with this Offer leading to 100% ownership of the Club. We appreciate Mr Usmanov’s dedication to the Arsenal Football Club and the storied ethos and history the Club represents.”
The Arsenal Supports Trust, which represents over 1,000 fans of the club, said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the deal “will see the end of supporters owning shares in Arsenal and their role upholding custodianship values.”
“The most dreadful part of this announcement is the news that Kroenke plans to forcibly purchase the shares held by Arsenal fans,” the Trust said. “Many of these fans are AST members and hold their shares not for value but as custodians who care for the future of the club. Kroenke’s actions will neuter their voice and involvement. It is in effect legalised theft to remove shareholder scrutiny on how Arsenal is managed.”
Kroenke, who is worth an estimated $8.3 billion according to Forbes, made money in real estate before becoming a sports mogul in the US. He owns NFL team the Los Angeles Rams and NBA team the Denver Nuggets, among others. He began building his stake in Arsenal in 2007 after buying a 9.9% holding from ITV.
Arsenal last year parted ways with Arsene Wenger, who had managed the club for over 20 years after they finished the season 6th in the Permier League, their worst position since 1992. Unai Emery, the former manager of Paris Saint-Germain, was appointed in his place.
Deutsche Bank is advising KSE on the takeover deal.
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