Alisher Usmanov makes $1.3bn bid to take control of Arsenal FC

Russian steel magnate owns minority stake in club and seeks to buy out US shareholder

Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire who owns a minority stake in Arsenal football club, has in recent weeks made a $1.3 billion (€1.2 billion) bid to buy out his rival shareholder in the English Premier League team, according to three people close to the situation.

Mr Usmanov, a metals magnate who owns 30 per cent of Arsenal, conveyed the offer in a letter to Stan Kroenke, the US sports mogul, who controls a 67 per cent stake.

The approach, made last month, valued the club at $2 billion (€1.8 billion). Mr Kroenke has yet to formally respond. He is understood not to have dismissed the idea out of hand at first. However, he has since informally indicated he is not interested in selling to Mr Usmanov or anyone else.

“Two weeks ago, I thought something could realistically happen. Now I am not so sure,” a person close to the situation said.

The approach reignites the bitter feud between the two men over the direction of the club. A call seeking comment to the Kroenke Group was not returned.

Arsenal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Red & White, Mr Usmanov’s investment vehicle, declined to comment. The steel magnate has become increasingly concerned about a lack of investment by Mr Kroenke.

In an interview with Bloomberg last month, he said the blame for the club’s performance should not rest solely with Arsène Wenger, the manager, but also with Mr Kroenke and the board, from which Mr Usmanov is excluded.

Fifth place

Arsenal are sitting in fifth place in the Premier League and face the prospect of failing to qualify for the Uefa Champions League for the first time in two decades as the season comes to an end on Sunday. Arsenal stands to lose out on about £50 million (€58 million) in revenue if it misses out on the European tournament.

Arsenal’s poor performance has generated frustration among supporters and increased the tensions between fans and Mr Wenger. Many, disenchanted with the club’s form in recent seasons, have accused Mr Kroenke of being an absentee owner.

Two people following the process closely said that other bidders were circling.

Mr Usmanov is not planning on disposing of his stake and the offer to buy out Mr Kroenke came from a desire to work co-operatively and strengthen the team, one of these people said.

Mr Usmanov, who hails from what is now Uzbekistan, first acquired shares in Arsenal in 2007, when he teamed up with Farhad Moshiri to purchase a 14.6 per cent stake for £75 million (€87 million). Last year, Mr Usmanov increased his stake to 30 per cent, buying out Mr Moshiri, who went on to buy rival club Everton. Mr Kroenke also bought into Arsenal in 2007 and became majority shareholder four years later.

Arsenal Holdings made a pretax profit of £2.9 million (€3.4 million) in 2016, on revenue of £353.5 (€411.1 million).

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017