Dein key to Kroenke’s Arsenal takeover

FORMER vice-chairman David Dein could find himself holding the balance of power should Stan Kroenke elect to launch a hostile takeover at Arsenal.

The American billionaire owns just over 12% of the Gunners’ parent company following his initial purchase of ITV’s holding earlier this year.

While there has been no official comment from the reclusive entrepreneur, speculation continues that Kroenke Sports Enterprises are keen to up their financial involvement in the club.

The current Arsenal board have recently softened their stance towards the US investor, after chairman Peter Hill-Wood had initially declared “we do not need his money and we don’t want his sort”. Both Hill-Wood and managing director Keith Edelman have since met with Kroenke, who is said to be “bullish” at the prospect of further talks, with an open invitation issued by the Arsenal board.

However, rumours the Gunners are poised to be the next English club set for a big-money US takeover show little sign of dissipating — while reports the offer of an influx of foreign cash to aid the strengthening of the squad was knocked back will hardly have gone down well with manager Arsene Wenger, who has yet to sign a new deal.

Former FA vice-chairman Dein may have left the club because of “irreconcilable differences” with the rest of the current board in April, but he still holds a significant amount of stock — around 14%, estimated to be worth in the region of £57 million (€84.7m).

Add that to the KSE shares and suddenly the American-backed company would be close to the 30% threshold which, under the Stock Exchange rules, would see them obliged to launch a takeover bid for the remaining holding. Hill-Wood, though, has long maintained he would be “horrified” to see complete ownership move across the Atlantic.

At the time of the announcement of Dein’s departure, a pledge was taken by the remaining board members — who together hold some 45.45% — not to dispose of any stock for “at least one year”.

That in itself, however, may not prove impossible for Kroenke to overcome, should he seek such a course of action.

The American could well decide to target smaller chunks via the ‘Landsdowne Hedge Funds’, which account for around 5% of the total capital.

It also remains to be seen whether the largest shareholder Danny Fiszman could become more amenable to an acquisition once he has gained Swiss residency — and so avoid having to pay a multi-million-pound capital-gains tax bill on any shares he did eventually offload.

For now, though, the exact nature of the next move of the man labelled “Silent Stan”, because of his tendency to remain in the background, continues to be shrouded in uncertainty.

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