American businessman Stan Kroenke vowed to bring silverware back to Arsenal’s trophy cabinet after securing a 62.89% controlling share in the club.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE) cleared the way for a full takeover after agreeing to buy out major shareholders Danny Fiszman (16.1%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9%) for around £234m (€265m).
By passing the 30% threshold, Kroenke is obliged to make a cash offer for the remaining capital at £11,750 (€13,300) per share. The club’s total value has been set at £731m (€828.3m).
Kroenke will become the fifth American owner in the Premier League – one quarter of the clubs – with Arsenal joining an established sporting stable.
KSE already own NFL franchise the St Louis Rams, NBA team the Denver Nuggets, NHL club the Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer champions the Colorado Rapids.
Arsenal, league champions on 13 occasions, have not won a trophy since the FA Cup in 2005 but Kroenke has backed Arsene Wenger as manager and vowed to bring success to the Emirates Stadium.
“Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger,” said Kroenke. “We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success.”
Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Sunderland are all owned by American businessmen, while five other Premier League clubs are in foreign hands.
Wenger is convinced Kroenke will respect the traditions Arsenal have built – a reputation for developing young players – and his involvement will be for the good of the club.
Kroenke plans to continue operating the club in line with its existing “self-sustaining business model” and he will not be funding his offer with debt finance secured against the club.
“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,” Wenger said.
“He understands the club’s heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the club in a way which protects our long-term future.”
Kroenke has asked the existing Arsenal board to remain in place.
Arsenal’s independent directors – chairman Peter Hill-Wood, chief executive Ivan Gazidis, Ken Friar, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham – are recommending that shareholders accept Kroenke’s offer.
“It’s the end of an era but it’s also the beginning of an era,” said Gazidis. “We’re looking forward to Mr Kroenke bringing his sports experience to the table. As you know, he’s a long-term owner in sports teams in the United States.
“His current football team, or soccer team, in the United States the Colorado Rapids are the current Major League soccer champions. And he’s had success across his different sports businesses so I think that we can anticipate that this will be a positive deal.”
Kroenke’s main focus will now be on purchasing the £194m (€220m) stake owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who does not have a seat on the board but controls 27% of the club’s holding company.
The Arsenal Supporters Trust said today they had received assurances from Gazidis about the importance of fans’ continued involvement in the ownership of the club.
The AST will discuss the takeover bid at tonight’s AGM and it is expected they will advise members not to sell their shares, to ensure supporters retain a stake in the ownership structure.
“The AST are encouraged by Kroenke’s offer but the key judgement is whether the supporters are involved in the ownership,” said spokesman Tim Payton.
“The AST wants to see supporters as shareholders in the ownership structure and is encouraged that Kroenke does not intend to delist from the PLUS Stock Exchange.
“We have spoken to Ivan Gazidis who reiterated the importance placed on fans’ involvement in their commitment to custodianship.
“The AST has always been wholly opposed to any takeover placing debt on Arsenal Football Club. It is very good news that Kroenke confirmed he has no intention of doing this.”
As a director of Arsenal, Kroenke has already been through the Premier League’s ’owners and directors test’.
KSE will have to provide the Premier League with a projected financial position to prove they can sustain running the club for the next 12 months before any takeover can be completed.
Liverpool and Blackburn have already been through that process since the Premier League’s new financial rules were introduced at the start of this season.