Ecclestone 'considers Arsenal bid'

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday refused to rule out the possibility of a takeover of Arsenal.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday refused to rule out the possibility of a takeover of Arsenal.

Ecclestone concedes he has yet to hold talks with the Premier League club, who are apparently bracing themselves for a £650million offer for control from American billionaire Stan Kroenke.

Kroenke already owns 12.2% of the Gunners, and there are suggestions he is now looking for outright ownership.

But Kroenke may yet face a battle with Ecclestone, the 76-year-old ringmaster of Formula One who has amassed a £3billion fortune over the years.

Ecclestone’s trump card is that he knows former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who left the club in acrimonious circumstances in April. Ecclestone confirmed his daughter Tamara is currently dating Dein’s son.

“I don’t know too much about it (the story) actually,” Ecclestone told PA Sport at the Nurburgring ahead of Sunday’s European Grand Prix.

“It’s good if somebody is saying that because maybe I will get approached - and maybe it will be cheap enough.

“I’ve not spoken with anybody at Arsenal. I obviously talked to David (Dein) when they chucked him out, which I thought was a bit unnecessary.

“But if somebody offers me something that I think has got good value, I will have a go.”

It is not the first time Ecclestone has been linked with an English club as there were suggestions a few years ago he was interested in Chelsea prior to Roman Abramovich’s takeover.

Ecclestone, who is a regular visitor to Stamford Bridge, was due to join forces with Renault boss Flavio Briatore, but it was a move that did not come to fruition.

“Flavio and I were interested in Chelsea not so long ago – but I’m interested in anything if it’s cheap enough,” confirmed Ecclestone.

“I do go to Chelsea. Flav and I went to matches. I go when I’ve nothing else to do.”

But then he added: “What problem would I be in with Chelsea if I bought Arsenal?”

However, given the plethora of Premier League clubs falling into foreign hands in recent seasons, if Ecclestone were to make a move it would almost certainly be looked upon favourably at the club.

There has been no official comment from Kroenke but reports that he was about to launch a takeover bid come after an apparent softening of attitude towards him from the Arsenal board.

Chairman Peter Hill-Wood had initially declared “we do not need his money and we don’t want his sort” but both he and managing director Keith Edelman have since met with Kroenke.

Kroenke is said to be “bullish” at the prospect of further talks but the picture is not clear.

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 – who has interests in several US sporting clubs – could well decide to target smaller chunks from 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 - as he would then 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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