Stan Kroenke doesn’t do method acting, he prefers to remain silent. So we have to guess what his motives are with regard to Arsenal. I think it’s a basic choice of two: make a quick buck (well, a few hundred million) and get out, or gradually earn back the money invested over a period of several years if not longer, and have a very valuable asset at the end of it.
Alisher Usmanov’s motives appear different. He’s not a collector of sports clubs like Stan, and he certainly doesn’t need to use Arsenal to make money, which is inevitably going to be a relatively slow process. For him it’s probably more about prestige, and wanting a new toy. There may also be elements of integrating himself into English ‘society’, for want of a better word, or having a completely clean asset worth enough to retire on that no one in Russia can easily get their hands on if everything in Oligarchland goes tits up at some point. If it were someone less honest than Mr Usmanov, or with less Rottweiller-like lawyers, an owner of Arsenal might conceivably be trying to launder money gained elsewhere by using Arsenal as a giant currency washing machine, but no one is doing that are they. I must assure any legal people reading this that my John Terry sarcasm button is firmly in the off position and will remain so until further notice.
But Stan is in the driving seat at the moment anyway, so let’s concentrate on his motives for a minute. This came to mind as a result of a comment on yesterday’s post by ‘Englandsbest’, who reckons that Stan expected Usmanov to sell up last year and leave him in peace, and now Stan is stuck because he can’t sell to anyone else with Usmanov hanging around like a bad smell (legal note: it’s just an expression and is in no way indicative of odours emanating from any Arsenal shareholder). This assumes of course that Stan wants to sell. Personally I don’t think he does. As another commenter pointed out, Stan is in control of Arsenal with his 67%, and it doesn’t really matter if Usmanov has 29%, or even 49%, of the shares, because he can’t do anything to harm Stan until he gets to 50% plus one share. So Kroenke can decide how and when to take money out. If he pays a dividend he’ll have to give some of it to Usmanov – so he probably won’t – but there are plenty of other ways of siphoning money out if and when he decides to.He just has to look at the Glazers and their £100m+ management fees for inspiration.
Will Stan be able to find another buyer with Usmanov in play? I think he probably could, as long as he demonstrates that Usmanov is nothing more than an irritating irrelevance, a bit of background noise. That would mean running a good efficient operation for a couple of years while steadfastly ignoring Usmanov and expecting Wenger to keep producing the goods on the pitch long enough to maintain the value of the company.
Where I think Stan may have miscalculated slightly is in maintaining the value of his biggest asset, viz Arsenal FC. No doubt he could see that Arsenal had done pretty well without additional investment over the years, particularly since the late 1980s, even building a new stadium on manageable terms. But the more Sheikhs and Oligarchs there are entering the game, the more the chance of having to put in some cash to keep up – or finding yourself one place lower each time a new billionaire turns up. And Arsenal have had two very successful managers since the 1980s – it may not be easy to find a third who will win so many trophies.
This wouldn’t matter in America, where relegation doesn’t exist, there are spending caps in place and if you’re rubbish one year you get first pick of all the best young talent the next year. In the Premier League, if you’re rubbish one year you just increase the chance you’ll be rubbish the next year, if you’re not actually chucked out immediately.
For what it’s worth I don’t think Stan intends selling. But it’s possible a situation will arise where he needs to pump in money to maintain value. Then again, he bought half his shares at around the £8,000 mark, so he’s got a fair cushion built up on current prices before he’s in danger of losing money. That doesn’t particularly bode well for encouraging him to spend – not until Arsenal have drifted quite a long way down the table. Happy days.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment or tweet me on @AngryOfN5