So apparently a Middle-East consortium is prepared to bid £1.5 billion for Arsenal, according to two separate ‘exclusives’ in the Telegraph and Sun on Sunday.
Let’s look at the headline figures first. They reckon the offer is £20k a share, which would give Stan Kroenke £831m for his 41,581 shares – which as I worked out in November would be a profit of £400m.
The papers should really be crediting me with working out Stan’s profit, because none of them have ever done it, so where did they get their figures from? The figures that coincidentally match mine.
Never mind. Alisher Usmanov as we know currently admits to having 18,645 shares, which would be worth £373m at £20k each, but he’s unlikely to care much about that.
At £20k a share the whole share issue of 62,217 shares is worth £1.24434 billion, so they’re adding on the debt of £200-odd million and doing a bit of rounding up to make £1.5 billion. But of course the only thing that would matter here is how much Stan would be getting, because either he sells or he doesn’t sell, and if he doesn’t want to nothing’s changed.
Second question: is this genuine new interest in Arsenal, or a cover for something else?
These unnamed would-be investors are apparently willing to work with Alisher Usmanov. Does that mean anything? Not really. If it’s genuine they’d say that anyway, no point rubbing him up the wrong way, and if it’s not genuine then it’s quite possibly a bit of ground-laying work by Usmanov anyway.
Mr Usmanov, as I said above, admits to having 29.96% of Arsenal shares. He’s long-coveted a 30% shareholding, though as I’ve explained in previous blogs the good reasons for that have largely disappeared. Despite the absence of good reasons, he’s continued to buy shares since last summer, until he is just 21 short of his target. But – get this – reliable sources tell me he’s now stopped buying. So:
a) He’s given up wanting to own Arsenal – which seems unlikely
b) He’s got the extras lined up and is just waiting for the ‘right time’ to declare he has reached 30%, for whatever perverse reason he has
c) He’s up to something else – like inventing Middle-East consortiums and leaking takeover bids to national newspapers
As I say, a) is unlikely, b) is highly likely, but b) being true doesn’t preclude the truth of c). If this whole story is concocted by Usmanov’s people then I can’t quite see what the purpose is, unless he wants to know whether the Arsenal fanbase would prefer a different billionaire to either him or Stan. A Scooby-Doo moment of the Qataris or whoever taking over, then their leader ripping off a mask to reveal it was Usmanov all along would be most amusing.
Moving on. What difference would it make to Arsenal anyway? As FFP is on the way, would that prevent a new owner splashing the cash in a Man City-like manner? Short answer is yes, probably. I published a guest blog recently explaining the FFP position for the big English clubs, and in summary Arsenal will have trouble justifying spending much more on wages unless they can genuinely increase income somehow.
There will be some increase in commercials soon as a result of new TV deals, but of course everyone is getting that, so Arsenal have no advantage. There should also be much better kit and shirt sponsor deals, but personally I’m not convinced they’ll be mega-deals. The Arsenal commercial team don’t fill me with that much confidence.
Also note that the would-be investors have apparently said (in a shameless attempt to court favour with hardcore fans) that ticket prices would be reduced. Well, if they reduce ticket prices, genuine matchday income goes down so the club can spend less on wages than before! Guess we may not be getting Messi after all, though I can see things getting messy in the Boardroom this summer.
Many are cynical about whether FFP will work, but indications are that it’s already making a difference to the behaviour of Man City and Chelsea. Uefa will put everything into getting it to work, so unless there is a breakaway European league, there will be an effect. The only question is exactly how much of an effect, and how many loopholes clubs can find. But it is certain that if Man City were starting their journey right now they’d be a lot less likely to be Champions than starting when they did.
Arsenal are in a much better position than City were, of course, so less is needed. It might be possible to do enough to make Arsenal Champions again, but we won’t see money thrown around like City did.
Next question: If it’s NOT Usmanov, would Usmanov also sell if Kroenke did? I wouldn’t want him to, because for reasons I’ve explained before, I don’t want a single owner of Arsenal. A majority owner is bad enough, but with one person in charge the club becomes a toy. My gut feel is that Usmanov wouldn’t sell; I don’t think he likes to be beaten.