Every couple of weeks the Arsenal website gives an update on how many shares the major shareholders in the club have. They’re required to do this under Premier League rules. The rules are actually a bit vague, as they don’t say under what circumstances exactly changes must be reported, but Arsenal seem to take it upon themselves to put an update out approximately every two weeks.
Now an increase of two shares for R&W may seem irrelevant, but what it means is that with one more single share R&W will have achieved their target of 30% of the total equity of Arsenal Holdings PLC (they now have precisely 29.9998392722246%). Why do they want 30%? Well, their reasons may have changed since they set that target, as on the face of it there is no more benefit from having 30% that having 29%, or indeed 25.01% or 49.99%.
Once R&W breached 25% they could block any change that required 75% of the vote, but without getting to 50%+1 they’ll get no more power unless Stan Kroenke chooses to give it to them. So far there is no sign of that.
Prior to last summer, when the Premier League re-wrote their rules governing this, it may have been possible for R&W to insist on full access to all Arsenal’s finances once they reached 30%, but that no longer applies. There is no compulsion for Usmanov to make a full bid for Arsenal at 30% because there is already a majority shareholder in place, and 30% does not entitle anyone to a seat on the Board.
So why bother? Well, that’s what we wait to find out. I think R&W have deliberately held off going over 30% during the season so as not to be accused of distracting anyone from the job in hand. I think as soon as the season is over, we’ll see that Mr Usmanov will rustle up an extra share or two and perhaps become a bit more vocal about the whole situation.
Of course he may already be in dialogue with Kroenke anyway – if Kroenke is even the slightest bit interested in dialogue – and I have heard from one source that a deal for Kroenke to sell this summer has been agreed for some months. However, that would seem to make it a bit pointless for R&W to keep buying odd shares in the meantime, so I have my doubts.
It looks certain there will be changes behind the scenes at Arsenal this summer anyway, as Peter Hill-Wood is rumoured to be standing down due to deteriorating health. Stan Kroenke may feel it’s time to put more of his people closer to the running of the club. Unless he’s selling it. I could tie myself in knots with different theories about who is likely to do what, but I think it will be an interesting summer.
We know now how Kroenke likes to operate his clubs: minimal interference and let them pay for themselves as long as they are in some measure competitive, or at least not losing money. We don’t know how Usmanov would operate as sole owner of Arsenal. Personally I have my doubts that everything would be as rosy as some seem to think.