Have you heard the one about the takeover where the former senior management team all kept their jobs despite selling up? Well welcome to the unique world of Arsenal Football Club where they even do takeover’s smoothly and with no bloodshed. Stan Kroenke’s acquisition of 62 per cent of Arsenal’s shares completes a four-year-long saga which actually began with chairman Peter Hill-Wood claiming they didn’t want Kroenke’s sort over here!
Hill-Wood has changed since then and the almost £5million he will pocket for his 400 shares will certainly help while other shareholders have upped sticks and cashed in their chips. It almost certainly means that Kroenke, Alisher Usmanov and smaller shareholders like Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) will hold the cards in the future, a far cry from just five years ago.
Then, the list of shareholders read, Peter Hill Wood, Lady Nina Bracewell Smith, Richard Carr, David Dein, Keith Edelman, Danny Fiszman, Ken Friar, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham. Notice anything? Yep, all very English and the epitome of an old boys (and girls) club, so how did a Yank get in? Well he brought 9.9 per cent of shares from ITV for a start and then made friends with David Dein.
Dein lost a boardroom battle, something which would claim fellow ally Bracewell-Smith but not Fiszman. The remainder held on to their shares and eventually welcomed Stan into the boardroom during which time Edelman departed as chief executive to be replaced by Ivan Gazidis, someone who knew American sport very well and would have more than a passing knowledge of our man Stan.
And now Kroenke has his stake, 62 per cent is likely to be the limit as Usmanov declared on Tuesday that he would not sell despite being offered a reported £200million profit while AST have refused to budge. Despite reports in the press, this is unlikely to be a problem for Arsenal’s new chief who has already stated he wants to work with the fans while all the time knowing that Usmanov is stuck in a corner.
So what can Gunners fans expect? Well it won’t be transfer budgets of £200million a year, a new manager and all that jazz – expect continued housekeeping with the only changes to the commercial side. Already there are rumours Kroenke wants out of the Emirates shirt/stadium sponsorship deal, a 10 year agreement which began in 2006. An increased focus on developing the Arsenal brand in areas such as the States and money-rich China is also on the cards.
It’s highly likely that Arsene Wenger will remain at the helm as well as Kroenke has already placed on record his admiration for the work done by the Frenchman. A look at Kroenke’s record with his American teams shows someone who has never sold up and does deliver, if limited, success. He is not afraid to back his managers either and will aim to put bums on seats as he once authorised the trade in of then NBA star Allen Iverson to his Denver Nuggets side.
That move didn’t work but could have promising signs for Arsenal if Arsene Wenger did fancy a dip into the genuine superstar pool this summer. A crucial factor is that Arsenal’s new chief delegates well and doesn’t interfere but places trust in a front-office team. At the Emirates he appears to have trust in the boardroom with Hill-Wood remaining chairman, trust in the business with Gazidis as chief executive and trust in the football with Wenger.
What about a director of football though? Someone who could link the boardroom, business and football and leave Wenger free to do what he does best, manage and nurture footballers. Someone who has proven to be a negotiator and a confidant to Wenger, someone who will encourage the Frenchman to follow his gut instincts and pay the money for the likes of a young French forward who hasn’t fulfilled his potential (Henry) knowing he could be sold for a profit down the line. Kroenke once had David Dein’s number on speed-dial, perhaps ‘Silent’ Stan’s first move should be to have a chat with his former associate.....