A quick Arsenal share update. I was prompted to do this today by the fact that there are updated figures on Arsenal.com, and for the first time since 20 December the number of shares officially held by Alisher Usmanov has gone up – in this case by eight, from 18,637 to 18,645.
To recap the situation:
- there are 62,217 Arsenal shares
- the current price per share is around £16,000
- Stan Kroenke, through Kroenke Sports Enterprises, owns 41,581 shares, or 66.83%
- Alisher Usmanov, through Red & White Holdings and in partnership with Farhad Moshiri, owns 18,645, or 29.96%
- Usmanov needs 21 more shares to get to 18,666, or 30%
So Stan has a majority and can do much as he pleases, including appointing whoever he likes to the Board. No one else on the Board owns any shares now, having sold them to Stan. In fact, as far as I am aware, no other Arsenal employee is a shareholder any more. There is a ‘Liam Brady’ on the share register, but (assuming he’s not scamming me) he’s read this piece and he assures me he is not the Liam Brady (he tweets as @liamBMT if you want to check him out. Dodgy profile picture, but if he’s really the owner of an Arsenal share, he can’t be all bad, can he?).
This is a unique point in Arsenal’s history, where the club is controlled by a single person and no one else there has any owning interest whatsoever.
Leaving Stan out (he’s never around anyway), Piers Morgan has more shares than the Arsenal Board!
Darren Dein, the agent instrumental in moving several Arsenal players away from the club, has more shares than the Arsenal Board!
Meanwhile Alisher Usmanov continues to buy shares in small numbers. Why?
Until last summer he hoped that by getting to 30 per cent he could force the club to share all its financial information with him if he got to 30 per cent and was considered an ‘owner’ under Premier League rules. But the Premier League changed the rules, so why does he keep buying shares? It’s not because he can then make a full takeover bid, because a) he can do that anytime he likes, as could anyone, regardless of shareholding, and b) he won’t be forced to make a bid at 30 per cent because it’s at the discretion of the Takeover Panel and they won’t enforce that when there is already a majority owner in place.
So, possible reasons for carrying on buying:
- He wants to get to 30 per cent and then mount a legal challenge to get the right to look at all the books anyway, regardless of the PL rule change.
- He wants 30 per cent purely for the symbolic notion that it sounds bigger than 29 per cent (or even 29.96)
- He’s got this far and just thinks, sod it, it’s small change anyway, might as well carry on to my original target.
- He’s just doing it to distract from some other activity. What other activity? The logical answer to that is a deal with Stan to buy the lot.
I don’t for one minute think Usmanov will make a move during the season, because he’ll be accused by everyone of destabilising the club and distracting it from the (fourth place) trophy chase. So I think whatever happens – if anything happens – will happen in June.
By then Usmanov will have sufficient shares lined up to take him past 30 per cent, if he doesn’t already. Then he can decide whether to stick on 30 per cent and agitate to be given Board representation, access to books, etc, or he can make a deal with Stan to purchase Stan’s 66 per cent. Or both.
Perhaps he already has a deal with Stan. Stan’s never sold a share in a sports club, but that doesn’t mean he never will.
One thing is certain: Usmanov is still buying shares and hasn’t given up the idea of owning Arsenal. Is he prepared to pay over the odds if Stan pushes it? Is he prepared to wait as long as Stan will wait? Find out in June.
But if you think it would be a great idea to get rid of Kroenke and replace him with Usmanov, you need to remember:
- it’s easy for Usmanov to make promises when he’s not the owner, just like opposition political parties do
- no one know Usmanov’s real motives for owning Arsenal, we can only guess
- no one in Arsenal history has ever owned 66 per cent before; if a single person owns 100 per cent the club becomes their toy, and the Arsenal tradition of plurality is gone (we’ve already lost ‘custodianship’ from the Board)
I’m not saying Usmanov would be necessarily bad for Arsenal, whatever his reputation. I’m just saying it would be unfortunate to find out he is when he owns everything.