Arsenal deny talk of record takeover
Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Soccer:Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has no plans to sell his majority stake in Arsenal, a spokesman for the Premier League soccer club said on Sunday, responding to a report that a Middle East consortium planned a €1.73 billion bid.
The Sunday Telegraph said the consortium, backed by funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had already requested a meeting with the American billionaire Kroenke, who owns a two-thirds stake in the famous north London club ahead of what would be a record takeover bid for a soccer club.
“Stan Kroenke is committed to Arsenal for the long term and has no intention of selling his stake,” Arsenal communications director Mark Gonnella told Reuters.
“There has been no contact from any potential investors,” he added.
Gonnella noted that Kroenke, who also owns the St Louis Rams in the NFL, had never sold any of his sports investments.
Many Arsenal fans are unhappy with the way Kroenke
nicknamed “Silent Stan” for his low profile - is running the club, arguing he is putting profit before success on the pitch.
Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005 and are facing another barren season. Supporters are angry at paying the highest ticket prices at the Emirates stadium and criticise Kroenke for selling their best players.
The consortium, whose members have not yet been named, would make available transfer funds “to transform the club into a major force in European and world football”, the newspaper quoted an unnamed source familiar with the plan as saying.
“The bid team regard Arsenal as one of the great clubs of European football but also one that is no longer punching its weight and is in danger of falling behind,” it said.
The newspaper added that the consortium would pledge to reduce ticket prices at the Emirates and aim to recreate there some of the atmosphere of Arsenal’s old Highbury ground.
Arsenal say their sound finances will make them more competitive in this era of “Financial Fair Play”.
Kroenke acquired a majority stake in Arsenal two years ago in a deal valuing the club at €850 million.
Arsenal's other main shareholder is Uzbek-born businessman Alisher Usmanov who has a stake of almost 30 per cent but does not sit on the board and criticised the club for allowing striker Robin van Persie to join Manchester United last year.
Any takeover would raise questions over the future of Arsenal’s long-serving manager, Frenchman Arsene Wenger, although the consortium values his football knowledge and want him to remain at the club, The Telegraph said.
An acquisition would add to a string of investments in European soccer teams by Middle Eastern interests.
Manchester City, the current English Premier League champions, were bought by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family in 2008, while Kuwait’s al-Hasawi family bought Nottingham Forest in July last year. France’s Paris St Germain and Spain’s Malaga are owned by Qatari investors.