Arsenal Takeover Is A Done Deal


Alisher Usmanov’s grip on Arsenal is tightening with the Russian billionaire close to seizing full control of the club.

Usmanov has steadily been gaining power at the Emirates, taking his initial purchase of 14.58 per cent in 2007 to 25.1 this year.

Now he is ready to buy another chunk of the club from former board member Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith.

If successful, that will take him well over the 29.9 per cent mark and, under Stock Exchange rules, trigger an automatic takeover bid.

A source close to the Gunners confirmed: “This has been on the cards for some time.

“Mr Usmanov has gradually been acquiring additional shares and now there is the chance to buy a very hefty and significant amount.

“The Arsenal board will want to resist a takeover so there are some interesting times ahead.”

SunSport understands Lady Bracewell-Smith is ready to sell her 15.9 per cent stake.

If she dealt with Usmanov, that would make him the Gunners’ biggest shareholder with 41 per cent.

Arsenal’s other major investors are Stan Kroenke (28.58) and Danny Fiszman (16.1).

Lady Bracewell-Smith has been considering her options since December when she was ousted from the board by Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood and Fiszman. Her shares are key in the growing battle for control being fought by Fiszman, Usmanov and his company Red & White Holdings and American sports tycoon Kroenke.

Lady Bracewell-Smith is also thought to have received overtures from a second Russian businessman interested in investing in Premier League soccer.

But the main focus remains on Usmanov and Kroenke.

Both were introduced to Arsenal in 2007 by former vice-chairman David Dein and have raced each other to buy up shares. Usmanov has been operating outside of the club, while Kroenke has been embraced by the board.

An ugly fight is forecast with Fiszman and Kroenke tipped to resist any takeover.

Recent Arsenal shares have exchanged hands at £8,500 each and Lady Bracewell-Smith can expect to receive around £100m for her stake.

But neither Fiszman or Kroenke want to sell and they certainly will not accept the going rate, so Usmanov will have to dig deep.

Usmanov, 55, made his fortune as a metal and mining mogul and has a reputation for being a hardman even among Russia’s oligarchs.

Before investing in Arsenal his only previous involvement in sport came as president of the Russian and European fencing associations.

Red & White Holdings declined to comment.

But Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “The club has a very clear philosophy which is that it is bigger than any single owner.”

The Sun

~ by footballdirecta on September 6, 2009.

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