Usmanov ups Gunners stake

Russia-based Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings group have increased their stake in Arsenal to 26.07%.

American Stan Kroenke, however, remains the largest individual shareholder in the Barclays Premier League club, last month moving a small step closer to the takeover threshold when buying another 10 shares to move to 29.9%.

Under the strict financial rules of the City, were anyone to cross the 29.99% takeover threshold, they he would be obliged to make a formal offer for the remainder of the shares at the highest price paid for stock during the past 12 months.

However, shareholders would not be forced to sell, and so after the offer had been made, if the party were not able to reach 50%, then they could not return to make another takeover offer for 12 months, unless invited to do so by the company.

It has been suggested the continued investment by Kroenke - who is already an Arsenal director - is designed to fend off possible aggressive moves by Usmanov.

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who left the board during December last year, could well hold the balance of power with her family’s 15.9% stake – which if sold to either Kroenke or Usmanov would push them well past the takeover threshold.

While, as one of the largest shareholders in the club, Arsenal continue to have positive dialogue with Red & White Holdings, earlier this year the board turned down Usmanov’s proposed rights issue to generate new cash, in favour of the status quo which sees the Emirates Stadium club remain self-financing.

Usmanov had argued the scheme would help to reduce both the long-term debt of some £400m (€441m), which is mainly associated with the new stadium, and also hand manager Arsene Wenger extra transfer funds.

In September, the Gunners’ parent holding company revealed an increase in turnover to £313.3m (€345m) and a record profit after tax of £35.2m (€38.8m) from results for the year ending May 31.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood made reference to Usmanov’s proposal in his report to the shareholders.

“In the final analysis I believe it distils down to a decision about whether it is appropriate to raise money from shareholders to purchase the registrations and pay the wages of footballers,” he said.

“This is not something that Arsenal has ever done previously in its history and it would be at odds with our ethos of running the club as a business which is self-sustaining and pays its own way in the world.”

Arsenal are currently fourth in the Premier League table, eight points behind leaders Chelsea, but with a game in hand and qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League at the top of their group.

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