Morning all, it seems odd that football should play second fiddle in today’s blog considering we just won our first game since 1875, but events at boardroom mean that’s very much the case.
It is a hugely significant day in the history of Arsenal Football Club. Stan Kroenke has agreed to purchase the shares of Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith for £11,750 per share, bringing his overall share holding to 62.89%. In accordance with stock market rules he will offer £11,750 for the remaining shares, but that doesn’t mean those shareholders have to sell.
An official statement has been made to the stock market with quotes from various parties, including Kroenke:
We are excited about the opportunity to increase our involvement with and commitment to Arsenal. Arsenal is a fantastic Club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger. We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the Club to new success.
Peter Hill-Wood, who will remain as chairman, paid tribute to Lady Nina and the Bracewell-Smith connection, as well as Danny Fiszman who was the driving force behind the new stadium:
I would like to pay particular tribute to Danny Fiszman for his immense contribution. Danny’s vision and drive led the relocation to our new stadium, an historic move which will benefit the Club and its many passionate fans long into the future
As well as talking about Kroenke:
Mr Kroenke, although relatively new to Arsenal, has shown himself to be a man who values and respects the history and traditions of this very special Club that we cherish. We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its future.
While Arsene Wenger said:
I have worked with Stan Kroenke at board meetings over the past couple of years and I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart. He understands the Club’s heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the Club in a way which protects our long term future.
As you would expect at a time like this everybody is saying the right thing. The club, and the new majority shareholder, want to assure fans that the traditions are upheld by the new owners and I suspect that goes to everything the club have done over the years. From the football side of things to the self-sustainability we have worked so hard to create. The statement that the takeover will not be be funded by heaping the debt onto the club is hugely important and reassuring.
It’s a marked change in the way the club is owned, however. Down the years, and particularly in recent times, plurality of ownership has been the Arsenal way and now we have Kroenke with his 62.89% and Red and White holdings with their 27%, plus a smattering of smaller shareholders.
It will be interesting to see how Usmanov reacts. Any chance of him owning the club is now well and truly buried and at £11,750 per share he stands to make a profit on his investment despite the fact he hoovered up shares at relatively high prices over the last few years. I don’t think there’s any hope whatsoever of Usmanov, or a representative, being invited to sit on the board. There’s certainly no love lost between the two camps and to me it’s inconceivable that any working relationship can be forged. Also, any suggestion of a return for David Dein is entirely wide of the mark for much the same reason.
R&W are under no compulsion to sell, and could easily hold on to their stake, but there’s little they can do with it. They can’t influence things, their famous ‘blocking stake’ is no more, so ultimately they have to make a decision sooner or later about what to do with their shareholding. If Usmanov did sell to Kroenke it would take him very close to the 90% mark at which point he could make compulsory purchases of all the remain shares and take the club into private ownership.
So, what of Stan Kroekne? Last year Swiss Ramble, whose analysis of football finance is second to none, wrote this piece about the American, and I asked him about the latest news and what it might mean for Arsenal;
Obviously any change in ownership is potentially problematic, but if Arsenal is to be taken over, then there are many far worse potential owners than Stan Kroenke out there.
The first point to note is that he will not saddle the club with mountains of debt, as happened at Manchester United and Liverpool. The offer very clearly states that it “will not be funded by way of any debt finance” that would take money from Arsenal’s business. This is consistent with Kroenke’s previous business dealings, as he has no history of using leveraged buyouts in other acquisitions.
He also has a lot of experience in owning sports clubs, as he has interests in many US teams, including the current Major League Soccer champions, the Colorado Rapids, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.
Kroenke has been on the Arsenal board since September 2008, so already works closely with chairman Peter Hill-Wood and chief executive Ivan Gazidis, which suggests that the club’s overall strategy is unlikely to change. Indeed, the offer promises that “they will continue to support and adhere to the self-sustaining business model hitherto pursued by the Board of Arsenal.” That said, I would expect him to apply pressure to improve the commercial income generated by the club, as this has been lagging behind its peers and is an area of expertise for Kroenke’s operations.
As an owner, he has a reputation for not interfering in the management of his teams. While he is regarded as someone that will spend money to bring in star players, his ethos is to not look for a quick fix, so, again, I would not expect many more changes on the playing side than were already planned for this summer.
However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we will only fully understand Kroenke’s intentions for the club as the takeover pans out.
I would agree that if Arsenal were to be taken over that Kroenke is by far the better choice than Usmanov. I’m not going into the details of that but long-term readers and those capable of a quick Google will understand why that is. That’s not to say there isn’t some concern and trepidation over the change in ownership model but the realities of business mean that this was always a possibility.
We have to hope that Kroenke’s association with the current board, the fact that he’s been part of the inner-sanctum, knows how the club works and everything else, mean that he’s a man who will respect what Arsenal Football Club is all about. It may also provide a bit of impetus to change some of the things that are wrong, address some of the issues we have, but obviously we won’t see any of that in the very short term. What is for certain is that it’s going to be a very interesting summer for more than the usual reasons.
No doubt there’ll be more on this in the days and weeks to come, for today we’ll just digest the news. What we ought to do is open up a book on which website/publication runs a story with the words ‘transfer war chest’ in it. My money’s on the Mail and it’ll be done before the end of the day.
So, with all that to consider, the small matter of yesterday’s three points is still up for debate. Firstly, the win was extremely welcome but we did it in a very Arsenal way. There was some wonderful football, some great Arsenal goals, some really scary moments, some outrageously sloppy defending but we got away with it.
And there’s something we haven’t seemed to have for quite some time, a bit of luck. There’s no doubt that Blackpool should have had a penalty, there were also big, big chances for them to equalise which they completely fluffed, and at one stage in the second half we were reeling, punch drunk from a tremendously committed Blackpool onslaught.
They started the game very brightly until two excellent Arsenal goals put us in front. Diaby began and finished an excellent move for the first, then Eboue slammed home with his left foot to make it 2-0. We were opening up Blackpool at will, van Persie beating the offside trap again and again, his control and finishing was not quite right however. We crafted chances, hit the post, and really we should have gone in three or four up at half-time.
So it was no surprise when they scored early in the second half. I spoke about luck and there was even an element of that to their goal. Lee Mason played on when Jens Lehmann, in for Almunia who injured his knee in the warm-up, took out their man as he went through. He could easily have blown for a penalty and given a red card, meaning we’d have had to put an outfield player in goal, but he waved play on and their man slotted home.
They really went for it and we were rattled. You have to doff your cap to the way they play and they caused us real problems. We didn’t help ourselve with the way we defended but just as their energy levels were falling we hit them with the third. Squillaci made a great tackle in the box, Diaby did brilliantly to hold off their player and play a ball to halfway which Cesc hit first time into the path of Theo who drove on and squared it to Robin to slide home.
That was always going to be enough and while I could sit here and pick the bones out of various parts of our performance I absolutely refuse to do that. If you want to call it papering over the cracks, be my guest, but after so long without a win in the league, and the last few weeks being so utterly miserable, I’m going to enjoy the three points.
I think we can maintain this intensity. We now have a rest, then we play on Sunday and then Tottenham the Wednesday after. We know that we have to give 100 per cent in every game. What people forget is that we are on a long unbeaten run, even if we had not won recently. But it was important to get a win again and we now have to go from game to game.
As I said yesterday, more than anything else the three points were the important thing, so now that we’ve got them I don’t see any need to complain. We got a bit of luck, long overdue in my opinion, and on little things like that seasons can change. It’s up to the lads to keep it going though, the next few games are difficult by any standards, but at least a little confidence will have been restored.
You can find video from yesterday on the Arsenal video page.
Anyway, that’s a hefty blog for a Monday morning. If there’s more on the takeover we might well have an extra edition or extra content so stay tuned.