I’ve waited until now to discuss the takeover story to give myself a little time to digest the news, and analyse what it realistically means for Arsenal Football Club. It is very easy to jump to snap judgements on whether it is a positive or negative thing, and as usual there are many shades of grey. Or perhaps, now we’re American-owned, gray.
Some of the details are still sketchy, but the definitive news we have is largely positive. That is, of course, expected – if there is any negative aspects to the takeover, they would hardly be announced, but the signs are good from a financial point of view. Here is what we know:
1) Kroenke owns 62% having purchased Lady Nina’s and Fiszman’s shares. News from tonight’s meeting with the AST suggests that he does not expect to gain many more shares, which would maintain the plurality of ownership that has served the club well for so long. He certainly doesn’t expect to get close to the 90% mark that would force shareholders to sell. In other words, if you are a shareholder, you have full rights to hold.
2) Usmanov is not going away. The only statements from his camp have stated that he feel screwed by the club. Hilarious. It is almost as if he didn’t expect to be ousted, which is somewhat odd considering his conspicuous absence from the board. But he has also insisted that he has no intention to sell. Strangely, this actually helps the plurality. Small mercies.
3) The board is fully behind Kroenke. At least publicly, and it is hard to imagine that there is much dissent in the ranks. His time on the board seems to have impressed – from chairman to manager, taking in all the major shareholders (minus one oversized Uzbeki) – they are all behind him assuming majority control. Whatever happens from here, such unity can only be a good thing.
4) Splits between Lady Nina and the board have been overplayed. No doubt that there is sour feeling there, or at least there was. But they have reunited in a common cause. Perhaps they all have the club’s interest at heart, perhaps Usmanov is such a classic arch-enemy that they have headed in the same direction – away from him. But it has emerged that Usmanov made a counter offer to Lady Nina of £13k a share, well above the agreed sale price with Kroenke. That she turned it down speaks volumes.
5) The purchase will not be leveraged. Unlike the feared Glazer model, Kroenke will not be saddling the club with debt to buy his share in it. That does not mean he is paying up front – he is laying down the equivalent of IOUs to be paid later, likely because his money and assets are tied up. I fully expect this to be twisted in the coming days by those seeking to find dirt where there is none.
Beyond that, we know little. While the financial side of things is promising, in that the structure and the fiscal strength remains largely untouched, it is unknown how the move will affect the on-field aspect over the coming years. I suspect it will change very little – Kroenke appears to have bought in to the long term strategy of the club, and is known as an extremely hands off leader. More than likely he will focus on the commercial side of the club, building the ‘brand’, if you will. The mystical transfer kitty is unlikely to be immediately forthcoming – the club will continue to be self sustaining, and that in itself is more limiting than the Chelsea or City approaches, for example. And rightly so.
Reading this so far, you probably think I am 100% behind the takeover, but that isn’t the case. I’m probably 40% for it because of the long term stability it suggests and the continuation of the club’s ethos, but 60% is being held back to see what happens over the next year or two. I really think it will be that long before we see the full effect of Kroenke’s leadership, largely because I don’t think much will change in the short term. And until he starts talking, we will know little more.
There will, however, be immediate fallout from this, and that concerns one Alisher Usmanov. The PR wheels are already in motion, the words ‘political prisoner’ have re-emerged, along with promises of what he would do if he were in charge. Which is easy in his position – you can promise anything when you know you will never have to deliver. The lockdown has long prevented him from assuming control, and this move alienates him even more. Anyone is his position would be hugely irritated at the turn of events, but he will find no sympathy here.
Elsewhere, that will not be the case. Already a couple of the sites running pro-Usmanov stories are continuing that line. Now, I’m not one to deny anyone their opinion, and there are those out there who make reasonable points that are clearly their own, but what struck me about some of those sites before is how similar their
scripts articles were. The pattern is predictable – a series of digs at Kroenke’s expense, reference to Usmanov’s successful business ventures, ability to fund a massive transfer fund, and culminating by harking back to the good old Dein days. Now, there are elements of truth in there – Kroenke is largely absent and silent, and Usmanov is rich. But beyond that, it doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny.
I am sure that some of you are reading this and disagreeing. Perhaps you are unwilling to write Usmanov off, perhaps you think he would be good for the club. But as far as I’m concerned, the further he is away, the better. Not because of his business acumen, which is impressive. Not because of the fact he is a documented United fan – this is business, after all, and in some ways that is irrelevant. But because in my opinion, the values of the club would be destroyed if he took control. He cannot be ignored in his current position, and dialogue will have to (and should) be continued, but I certainly consider it good news that his chance of owning the club outright has gone.
Beyond that, we will have to wait and see. There will be much spin over the next few days, of that there can be no doubt. But I am cautiously hopeful.
Elsewhere, we won a football match yesterday, and a highly entertaining affair it was too. A microcosm of our season so far, we were brilliant in spells, missed hatfuls of chances, and then almost threw away three points. Credit to Blackpool though, if they go down, they will be sorely missed. I hope they survive – their defending might be terrible, but their attacking play is mesmerising at times. Remarkable that a team that threatening may drop out of the league.
And that is about it for today. The next few days will be fun.