David Dein Splashes The Cash – But Only On Himself

David Dein was in the London Evening Standard last week, and again today, as he has applied for and received planning permission to pull down a house he’s bought in Mayfair and build a new one on the site. He intends building a two-storey basement underneath the new house with ‘a swimming pool, gym and staff quarters’. They repeated the story today after the discovery that the frontage includes the entrance to a tunnel that one of his immediate neighbours uses to get to his underground parking. This allowed the Standard to compare the property to The Batcave! Strewth. I will spare you a scan of that one, but here’s the detail from last week:Dein buys house to knock down 004

Anyway, Dein does not seem concerned with disturbing the peace and quiet of all his new neighbours, who will not be compensated for the noise and inconvenience of the long building project going on under their noses, and indeed under their houses.

The Deins won’t be inconvenienced of course, as they currently live well out of earshot about 15 miles due north of Mayfair, in Totteridge.

There are several things I don’t like about this story. While I’m all for building on brownfield sites and improving standards in general, I never like it when rich people buy houses and knock them down to build new ones if it causes grief for everyone else in the neighbourhood. It seems rather selfish, especially when it causes the owner no inconvenience whatsoever because they carry on living somewhere else. If they don’t like the house they’ve bought, why did they buy it? Maybe they should have bought a different one rather than subject their neighbours to a couple of years of building works. Naturally the Deins were not available for comment on the subject of annoying their neighbours, though they were pictured on a night out the very evening before the story was printed, so were clearly able to comment if they so wished. Evening Standard employees need to multi-task and ask questions while they’re taking photographs.

All that aside, Dein has paid £7.75m for this house (they said £9m last week, but have revised that downwards now), and is now going to pay several more million to rebuild it. Where has he got all this money? Yes that’s right – he sold his Arsenal shares to Alisher Usmanov.

Here’s a quick potted history of David Dein’s fortune, gleaned from various internet sources, most of which seem to get bits of the story wrong:

Dein made his money in sugar trading, and by 1983 was wealthy enough to splash out £290,250 on 16.6% of Arsenal – a total of I believe about 1,200 shares at the time. These shares were authorised but unissued, he didn’t buy them from another shareholder. There has been an eight-for-one split since then, so there are a lot more shares in circulation now. The price Dein paid valued Arsenal at about £1.8m – yes, the whole club could be bought for less than three months wages for Mesut Ozil!

In 1991 Dein bought most of Peter Hill-Wood’s shares, taking his holding to 42%. However, his trading company hit trouble, being owed millions of pounds it couldn’t recover, and Dein was soon forced to cover potential losses by selling 10,000 shares to Danny Fiszman.

He sold further blocks of shares, all I think to Fiszman, during the 1990s, leaving him back down at around a 14.5% holding. Meanwhile his trading company was eventually wound up in 1997 after protracted failed legal action to recover monies owed – debts exceeded assets by £11m when things collapsed in 1992.  

All this time of course, the value of Arsenal was climbing. By the time Dein was booted off the Board in 2007 after falling out with Fiszman, one Arsenal share was worth over £8,000 and he still had 9,072 of them. Eventually he sold this remaining stake to Red & White Holdings for a sum widely reported as £75m, which would be £8,267 per share.

This, if I am not mistaken, is much more than he paid. How much resentment should I feel about this? I don’t mind some people being richer than others, within reason, but he’s made all this money from Arsenal while fans pay more and more to watch their team. His whole wealth now, the sole reason he can knock down and rebuild Mayfair houses to include staff quarters, is profit from Arsenal. Meanwhile a lot of people have been priced out completely from watching live football and many others can’t or don’t go as often as they used to and certainly struggle to take their children along very often.

On one hand David Dein has been rewarded for his vision and entrepreneurship and only ever taken reasonable salary amounts out of Arsenal, but on the other he’s never put any money back in – even when he’s made a fortune from his involvement. 

Equally, he can be praised for bringing Arsène Wenger to Arsenal and having a hand in making his early years successful, not to mention his part behind the scenes in George Graham’s successful reign. Conversely he wanted to move Arsenal to Wembley and introduced both the current major shareholders to the club, leading to the ownership mess we now have, with fans and small shareholders being squeezed out.

You might be of the mind that it’s worth bringing David Dein back to Arsenal because of the effect he had on Wenger. We’ve won nothing since Dein left, after all. You could present a good case for the vast majority of Dein’s activities to be mainly for the advancement of David Dein rather than of Arsenal, but even if you don’t care about that there’s a big question over whether the Wenger/Dein partnership would work now as it did a decade ago, given the changed landscape of football. In any case so far this season Wenger doesn’t seem to need his help. This could be by luck or judgement depending on your viewpoint, given that only a congenital liar would pretend the summer transfer window actually went as planned. 

Whether Dein should or shouldn’t be brought back isn’t really the point here, though. The point is he has only enriched himself through all this activity.

We laughed at Jack Walker for buying the Premier League title for Blackburn, but he poured in millions because he just wanted his local club to be successful. Abramovich and Mansour have done similar, but entirely for their own glory, and fans are peripheral to them – if anything they’re a way of getting a bit of money back. Meanwhile the Glazers take money out of Man Utd – indeed their sole purpose in buying the club was to make money from it. Where does Dein sit in all this? Financially somewhere between the oilies paying in and the Glazers taking out, but of course it’s not that simple because of his football role. None of the others was or is active on the football side, while Dein relished it and made himself busy both within the club and at a wider level with the FA, Premier League and G14. 

It just seems to me, in my simplistic view of the world, that if someone who professes to love Arsenal and be a lifelong fan owes their entire fortune to Arsenal, that maybe he should use part of it for the benefit of the club or other fans in some way, rather than just use it for further self-aggrandisement and annoying the residents of West London. Call me old fashioned. 

Tweet me. Sometimes I reply. @AngryOfN5

15 thoughts on “David Dein Splashes The Cash – But Only On Himself

  1. What’s interesting with Dein is that he has the entire way been a kind of dual good/evil figure if you will.

    – One of the protagonists in taking Arsenal to the next level, but also the man behind the ownership split today, having brought in BOTH Kroenke and Usmanov. Hell, maybe we shouldnt complain: Dein probably would have readily dragged even Lukashenko. Mugabe or King Jong Il, whatever – just as long as the promise of filthy lucre was strong.
    – One of the driving forces in the FA but also one of the architects behind the birth of the premiership, which condemned most clubs to a life of relative penury.
    – One of the most successful chief executives at Arsenal in the glory years when Wenger arrived —– but also the man who sold every one of his shares without a care for fan ownership or control.

    Clearly this man loved Arsenal, but above all else he loved money – first. Unfortunately.

    Good luck to his neighbours then: I’d imagine they are at the total mercy of anything that will conceivably increase the value of Dein’s property – even if it reduces their wealth or quality of life.

  2. I don’t think you have a clue mate. Horrible article and horrible premise. I guess construction worldwide should cease and we should layoff roughly 35% of the worlds workforce if it was up to you!

    • Yes, that’s right mate, all construction should cease, not just worldwide but GALAXY-wide – I’m pretty sure I said that in every paragraph, and if I didn’t I certainly meant to, and your comment is not in the least bit illogical or looking as though you didn’t actually read the piece at all. No sir.

  3. His son Darren Dein also making money selling Arsensl pkayers

    He sold

    Might have sold Diaby by now but for injuries. He will be selling Vamaelen nexr

    • Well it would appear now that Darren Dein manager to flog even a crocked Vermalen to his favourite buyer (Barcelona), so I guess selling Diaby isn’t beyond him…

    • His son is a player agent. Facilitating the transfer of players between clubs is his job?

      Arsenal have made a tidy profit from the sale of those players. Most of the moves, in hindsight, have worked out pretty well for us.
      Vermaelen, Song, Adebayor, you’d have to be happy to see the back of for the sums we got. Van Persie had one good season at OT and has been crocked since. Flamini was a free transfer mate. Henry and Fab are the only two Arsenal deserved a higher fee for, but the players orchestrated those moves themselves.

  4. My Father in law (a big Arsenal fan too) had many dealings with Dein in the ’80s as he use to do the advertising hoardings for Arsenal and a number of other clubs. He was told by a number of people at Arsenal to “watch his back” when dealing with Dein, and sure enough he found out what they meant after getting shafted by him. I feel sorry for his new neighbors. Not only will they have to put up with all that noise for god knows how long, then they have the pleasure I having to live next door to the Dein’s!!

  5. Arsenal have won 27 major honours in its 127 existence.

    13 were won during Dein’s 24 years at the club.

    14 were won during the other 103 years.

    I’m not saying Dein had anything to do with what went on on the pitch but it’s a mighty big coincidence.

  6. All very well saying he made millions buying shares, but share prices go up & down. He got lucky. Fair play

    Hill Wood sold his shares, and let’s not forgot he was the 3rd generation of his family to stand as Chairman. It is reported that he laugh when Dein brought the spares, but didn’t think his son may want to stand as Chairman.Happy to make money

  7. God forbid noise occurs during the construction of a house. Might as well stop gentrifying our inner cities and let those neighbourhoods decay because we wouldn’t want to upset the neighbours.

    And criticizing Dein for making a profit on shares is absurd. He had the foresight to invest into the club, took a gamble and it paid off. Do you have any sympathy for him for the fact the debtors who owed money to his trading company didn’t pay and his business collapsed?

  8. Problem with socialist and the working class , too busy telling people with money on how to spend their money , not enough effort put into improving themselves .

    He invested money into the club that was going no where in 1983 . Clear board leader during the George Graham and Wenger era .

    So what that he profited from the sale of shares ? One expects or hopes to profit from their investments .

    He made The Arsenal the commercially attractive club that it became .

    Petty remakes about his other ventures going bust . The author clearly never ran a business before .

    His son did a terrific job getting rid of problem players and injury prone players at a tidy profit . The club had to sell them to fund the new ground . Henry didn’t need an agent to get the best club and Cesc wanted to go back home .

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