Now's Arsenal a soccer club too

American Stan Kroenke has taken control of 62% of Arsenal, making the Gunners the 10th Premier League side to wind up in foreign hands.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 11 Apr 2011
American businessman Stan Kroenke has taken a controlling stake in Arsenal, agreeing to buy up the holdings of major shareholders Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith for £11,750 a share. That’s sure to feel like a kick in the shins to anyone who fears the national game is becoming just a play-thing for people who insist on calling it ‘soccer’.

Kroenke first bought 9.9% of Arsenal in 2007, and built his stake up gradually to become Arsenal's largest single shareholder, with a seat on the board. Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov is the next biggest, with a 27% stake; he's previously been linked with a bid for full control, but now Kroenke is in the box seat, as our American chums say, he'll probably have to sell up. That would leave Kroenke owning a swell 89%.

It's becoming a familiar story - cigar-chomping American zillionaire adds a Premier League side to his expansive squad of business interests, which in Kroenke's case includes Denver Nuggets basketball team, the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team and the Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids. Arsenal is now the tenth Premier League side to fall into foreign hands, following Aston Villa, Sunderland, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Fulham and both Manchester clubs.

It's fair to say some have proved more popular than others. The Glazer family has endured a string of protests since taking over Manchester United in 2005, while fan power helped to drive the unloved Tom Hicks and George Gillett out of Liverpool. But for now, most Arsenal fans seem pretty happy with their new would-be owner; astutely, he’s been a prime mover in setting up the Arsenal Fanshare scheme that promotes equity ownership by fans.

But will this prompt at change of approach at the Arsenal? In recent years the club has made great play of being run sustainably, with one eye on the longer term - boss Arsene Wenger has preferred to buy younger, cheaper talent rather than established big-money stars. But while its finances are in much better shape than, say, Chelsea's (where Roman Abramovich has supposedly ploughed in the best part of £1bn already), they're not that rosy either: the club reported an operating profit of £12.6m for the six months to the end of November, down from £29.3m the previous year. After tax, that meant a loss of £2.5m. And with no sign of Arsenal ending their six-year major trophy drought, maybe it's time for a change in tack?

Arsenal fans will be hoping for a sensible balance, on and off the field. And as long as Kroenke doesn’t do a Mohammed Al-Fayed and stick a ridiculous statue of Michael Jackson outside the stadium, they’ll probably cut him some slack.

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