Arsenal reject Usmanov’s cash offer – Be patient!

Ivan Gazidis has rejected the offer of cash for transfers from investor Alisher Usmanov. It is a significant show of belief in the strength of Arsenal’s business model and a put down for Usmanov.

It is a very thinly veiled attempt at winning more favour with the fans and putting pressure on the club to buy more players ala Real Madrid. Some fans will be annoyed at the way the board have just rejected this offer, but if it had been accepted then it would have set a dangerous precedent of involvement on Usmanov’s part.

The best thing the club can do is stick to it’s sustainable model of business. The cash thrown about by the likes of Real Madrid is unrealistic and in the long term it gets you nowhere, building a team with character and understanding is more important.

The pressure on Arsenal to win trophies will always be there, and until Arsene wins one with this generation there will always be critics of club policy. The potential is there, as it has been for several years, Arsenal fans just need to learn the art of patience.

Arsenal will be soon be Kroenke’s club

Stan Kroenke is manouvering his way to the top of the pecking order in the Arsenal board. Since his introduction to the club in 2007 we have seen him steadily accumulate shares, and this culminated him being invited to join the Board as a non-executive director in September 2008.

He has now taken a 20% stake – buying 8% from Danny Fiszman, and becoming second largest shareholder after Usmanov – spending £42 million – he is serious about this.

Kroenke took an 11.26% share off ITV in April 2007, and the Board were initally hostile – it was the beginning of a period of turbulence which saw Dein lose his position on the Board, and is still having repercussions today. Dein then sold his stake to Usmanov and suddenly Kroenke seemed like the good guy. The Board invited him in and is now setting him up as the defence against Usmanov and Dein.

This sale has come at a very important time – April 2009 is the end of the lock-down agreement set by the Board – they may now sell their shares to whoever they want. By increasing Stan’s share they are effectively blocking Usmanov. The situation was dangerous as Lady Nina is known to be unsettled and may sell her shares very soon.

Share in Arsenal

  • 25.0% Alisher Usmanov
  • 20.5% Stan Kroenke
  • 16.1% Danny Fiszman
  • 15.9% Lady Nina

Fiszman has given up his position as the second biggest holder, but still wields considerable clout. Usmanov seems unlikely to increase his stake; owning 30% would mean that he would have to launch a take-over bid – not likely at a time when his personal wealth is dwindling.

The lockdown agreement allowed Board members to trade between themselves – and this is the important part – it allows them to leave Usmanov in the cold. This is why Kroenke was invited onto the Board; to allow him to acquire shares. Kroenke is the Board’s choice to lead Arsenal.

The fact that Gazidis was appointed in January 2009, a man who has had contact with Kroenke in the MLS, is important. He may well have been Stan’s choice and hints further at the large scale shift in power within the club. The partnership with Colorado Rapids – Stan’s US football team also points to closer ties.

Personally I would prefer the Board to stay in the hands of the ‘old guard’, but Kroenke has made some promising comments:

“I will continue to work closely with my board colleagues to maintain the stable environment in which the club operates and to preserve the self-sustaining business model enjoyed by the club.”

This makes me hopeful that Stan is the right man for us. It seems inevitable that Arsenal will be in foreign hands in the near future, but Stan has experience in sports clubs and is a proven stable investor.

If he really is interested in maintaing Arsenal as a sustainable club then I am all for him.

Board changes at Arsenal

The most recent news coming from the Arsenal boardroom is that there are a few changes underway.

Lady Nina, who owns 15.9% of the club is leaving the Board, and the club, after a family association of over 50 years. She is now free from the lockdown agreement which the Board members entered into, and is free to sell her shares in the club.

As the third largest shareholder this is worrying, and it seems likely that she will sell, although whether to Board members, or to Red & White Holdings remains to be seen.

As well as Lady Nina leaving, Richard Carr who owns 4.4% will step down from Director, a position he has held for 27 years.

This is all part of the long term changes which began when Dein left the club, and new holders like Usmanov and Kronke have come in. It is not known the terms on which Lady Nina left but there are hints that there is some unrest at Board level.

As ever Hill-Wood wants to keep us stable and self-sufficient. It remains to be seen if this is possible.

Who owns Arsenal:
Directors’ collective shareholding 41.8%
Daniel Fiszman 24.1%
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith 15.9%
Richard Carr 4.4%

Peter Hill-Wood (chairman) 0.8%
Lord Harris of Peckham 0.09%
Ken Friar 0.07%
Sir Chips Keswick 0.06%
Keith Edelman 0.04%
Others: Red & White Holdings 24%; Stan Kroenke 12.4%
Remaining shares: approximately 1,200 minor shareholders.

Table edited from the Telegraph

Gunnerblog has views and excerpts from Wenger’s recent webchat with fans here.

Also on Sunday against Liverpool wear Yellow! We want to commemorate the title winning season at Anfield 20 years ago, and REDaction has come up with this idea. Newsletters were passed out at the Wigan game, and Arsenal.com has endorsed it too, so it would be great to see a yellow stadium on Sunday.

Kronke joins the Board as Arsenal’s profits announced

Stan Kroenke, an American shareholder has joined the Board as a non-executive director. He owns a 12% stake in the club and Arsenal say he was invited in because of his experience in managing sports businesses and in expanding financial prospects.

The BBC reports:

“His firm Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), owns the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team and Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids.”

It’s an interesting move, but one which I thought was likely. It makes sense for the Board to try and recruit a sensible ally if they are to maintain any control over the club from outside investors such as Usmanov.

They are pre-empting any takeover by forming an alliance with Kroenke, which also protects them from buyouts, as Kroenke now has agreed not to sell his 12% without consulting the Board.

This news comes as Arsenal announced a £36.7 million pre-tax profit for the year ending May ’08, rising more than £10m over the previous year’s profits.

Turnover was also up, from £200.8m to £223m, the move to the Emirates, and lucrative TV sponsorship are cited as major factors.

Peter Hill-Wood, the Chairman told the press:

“This club is ambitious for success and I believe that the strong financial position which the group has established, as confirmed by the results for the year, provides the best possible platform from which to deliver that success for the long-term,

“We are committed to operating the club as a business which is financially self-sustaining. This is clearly demonstrated having achieved our second highest ever pre-tax profit of £36.7m.

“Over the last two seasons Emirates Stadium has taken our football revenues to a new level, but we cannot be complacent. Accordingly, we recognise the need to further develop the business commercially on a worldwide basis.

“We have reported significant growth in turnover to £223m reflecting a growth in our core football business. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, new Premier League domestic and overseas TV deals have led to a rise in broadcasting income of £24.1m to £68.4m, and secondly, matchday income was £94.6m and remained the most important component of the Group’s income.”

“We moved to Emirates Stadium in order to compete with top European sides, not only on a financial footing but from a footballing perspective,” he added. “The healthy financial returns from moving to the Emirates are the fruits of our labour so far, but just as important is the team’s performances at our new home.

“Given that we have only lost one match in 58 competitive matches since moving here in 2006, Emirates is certainly becoming the fortress that Highbury once was.”

“The most significant factor is the new TV deal which has increased income by just over £24m. In addition, the inaugural Emirates Cup which we hosted in 2007 brought in £4m.”

On transfer funds, Hill-Wood had this to say:

“In answer to your question, yes funds will always be made available to Arsene to improve the quality of the squad and we have consistently stated that adequate funds are available to him if needed.

“We maintain a constant dialogue with Arsène and whilst there is not a set figure in place we are always able to buy additional players should he choose to buy. We have every confidence in Arsène and trust in his judgment, so he decides whether he needs to strengthen his squad.

“The accounts which we have released today show that the Group had cash balances of some £93m at 31st May 2008. This is clearly a very healthy position from which to support the manager’s spending plans.

“However, it must be recognised that £31.5m of this cash is held as security for the debt service of our Bonds and its use is therefore restricted, also there is a strong degree of seasonality to our cash flow with season ticket renewals during May having a positive impact on the year- end cash figure.”

“We have every confidence in Arsene and trust his judgment. It is not about spending a specific amount of money, it is about investing in the right people. It’s about having the right players with the right quality and the right spirit. People easily forget that we were not too far off winning some silverware last season. The margins are so small.

“We may have a young squad but they are talented and have one more year’s experience. They are managed exceptionally well by Arsene and we have every confidence that they will have a successful season.

“We strongly believe that to compete at the highest levels of professional football the club has to have a viable business that can pay its own way. We strongly believe this is the only way in the long-term.”

So, in summary, the move to the Emirates has been crucial in building financial strength, so now we can compete with the best in Europe. Wenger has money available and the backing of the board. In our current situation we can survive as a business which can pay it’s own way – i.e. no big investors like Abramovich!

Arsenal’s finances – an analysis

I came across this link earlier which I think is worth sharing with you.

It goes over Arsenal’s revenue streams, looking at why foreign investors might want to buy Arsenal out. There is also analysis of shareholders.

Click to read the article.

Check the link here at Arsenal Column. Or click the picture above.

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Hill-Wood can’t deny shareholders in a market economy + Dein is off.

Peter Hill-Wood the Arsenal chairman has spoken out about possible takovers at Arsenal FC.

He sensibly made the point that the Board don’t want to sell, they want to keep the club as it is, but in a market economy, if someone will buy ath the right price, you can’t stop shareholders from selling.

“If somebody came and made a really huge bid then you cannot recommend shareholders turn it down because we don’t like it.

“We want the club to stay in its current ownership and, of course, you have some concern that someone will try to buy the club.

“The directors don’t want to sell but we are a public company. It depends on the price.”

This is nothing more than stating the obvious, so I wouldn’t worry too much, it is just the media getting a story off the back of the Man City takeover.

Of course if someone bids a massive amount of money then shareholders are allowed to sell. Luckily the Board are currently in a lockdown agreement, which means that the biggest shareholders aren’t allowed to sell their chunks of the club.

The main contender is Usmanov, who has something like a 24% stake, he only needs 30% to be able to launch a takeover bid. The lockdown agreement makes this very hard for him to do.

I don’t want to see Arsenal sold to a foreign owner, I like the way the club is run and I think we can be successful without a foreign billionaire bankrolling the club and overruling the manager on many matters.

You only have to look at Chelsea – Mourinho sacked, Shevchenko saga, or Man City – Sven outrageously sacked – to see what unstability such oligarchs can create.

In a related story, David Dein, the man who was helping Usmanov in his bid to buy the club, has stepped down from his role at Red & White Holdings. According to the Daily Mail he has done this to improve Usmanov’s relationship with the club.

“Dein realises that there is now no chance of Usmanov having the type of input into Arsenal — and a possible seat on the board — his shareholding merits while the former Arsenal vice-chairman remains so closely tied to him, such is the hostility towards Dein.”

Dein believes that Arsenal need a billionaire owner to compete in the modern world of football, I think that he realises that his relationship with Arsenal is bad, and Usmanov is better off without him.

I have mixed feelings about the guy, he has done a lot of good for the club, but seems to have gone off the rails slightly. I would imagine that he will still have some level of involvement with Usmanov, but not in the public sphere.