This is an update of previous posts, so figures are current as at 15 November 2016.
Firstly, how many Arsenal shares are there? There are two figures commonly quoted: 62,217 and 62,219. The second figure is given on the ISDX website, where Arsenal shares are listed. However, the share register maintained by Capita Registrars gives the figure as 62,217. That’s because they don’t include two single subscriber shares held by the club that aren’t available to trade.
The subscriber shares were created just before Arsenal Holdings PLC was formed with the intention that it would be the holding company of Arsenal Football Club Ltd. They were held by club executives and their only purpose was to satisfy the requirement of the Companies Act 1985 that a public company must be formed by at least two members. The subscriber shares still exist and can be in the names of any two Board members.
The largest block of Arsenal shares held these days – indeed the largest number and percentage ever held by one person or organisation – is the 41,721 (67.05%) held by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. KSE UK is wholly owned by Mr Enos Stanley Kroenke. No single shareholder before Stan Kroenke’s KSE had ever held a majority of Arsenal shares.
The second largest block is the 18,695 (30.04%) held by Red & White Securities Ltd (R&W), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Red & White Holdings, which until February 2016 was itself owned jointly (50% each) by Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri. It was confirmed on 29 February 2016 that Usmanov had bought Moshiri’s share of R&W, making the Uzbek the sole owner of R&W and the Arsenal shares it holds. Figures for KSE and R&W shares are regularly updated on Arsenal.com. This is to satisfy the Premier League rule that holdings of 10% or over must be declared.
Those two blocks total 60,416 shares, or 97.10% of the total. This leaves 2.93% for everyone else, which is 1,803 shares if you want to go with the ISDX total figure, or 1,801 if you prefer the Share Register – which is more correct really, as the two subscriber shares can’t be bought by anyone outside the club anyway.
As at the start of October 2015 there were 645 entries on the share register, which on the face of it is 645 different shareholders. But things are not that simple.
A lot of shares – almost 8,400 – are held in the names of Nominee Companies for the purposes of the Register, which is not unusual. People who trade shares may leave them all with a nominee, often a bank, for convenience, but it also has the advantage of keeping the name of the real owner private. And it means that one nominee Register entry might cover multiple owners, or multiple nominee Register entries might have the same owner. Most of the 8,300+ nominee-held shares are part of the R&W total.
Additionally, some shareholders have multiple entries on the register. This can be for various reasons, including where parents have them for their children, or where shares have just been obtained at different times.
In the case of the big two, Stan’s shares used to appear as one block, but he’s bought some over the last couple of years that haven’t been added to his KSE entry in the register – 15 shares to be precise. These must be held in a nominee name, but it’s not clear which one.
Red & White’s entry says they have 10,591 shares, which is clearly not the whole story either, as their total is 18,695. Oddly the block of 10,591 used to be 10,592. There are also 8,392 shares held in 46 separate nominee entries. These include blocks of 6,727 and 1,378. It’s clear that R&W own most of those two blocks, but not quite all, because that would give them a total of 18,696. That’s one more than they’ve got, which is also odd. I’m guessing a friend of Mr Usmanov owns the leftover one in those blocks, and for whatever reason they haven’t bothered transferring it to R&W. Or else the totals are being reported incorrectly, which would not be a huge surprise.
Aside from the big two, the next biggest shareholder is another nominee account with 116 shares, followed by one lady who has 115. Then there are two holdings of 80 shares each and after that no one else has more than 40 in a single holding.
In total there are only 18 entries of more than ten shares, and three of those 18 entries are for R&W.
The rest of the shares are split like this:
• 393 entries of a single share being held – though those may include a couple of cases where the same person has more than one entry (in July 2012, when I first blogged on this subject, there were 376 entries of a single share)
• 88 entries of two shares each (there were 84 in July 2012)
• 34 entries of three shares each (32 in 2012)
• 21 entries of four shares each (25 in 2012)
• 14 entries of five shares each (18 in 2012)
• 16 entries of six shares each (15 in 2012)
• 4 entries of seven shares each (4 in 2012 also)
• 34 entries of eight shares each (51 in 2012 – see note below)
• 2 entries of nine shares each (3 in 2012)
• 10 entries of ten shares each (3 in 2012)
The reason there are a comparatively high number of blocks of eight is that there was an eight-for-one split (eight new shares for every one ‘old one’ held) in 1991, the result being that (you’ve guessed it) every shareholder had their holding multiplied by eight. Thus everyone who had a single share at the time now had eight – and quite a few of those were people who had bought single shares for £1 in the early 20th century. In 1910 the original limited company formed in 1893 had gone into liquidation and been rescued by Henry Norris. The new company had share capital of £7,000 and Norris issued 6,600 £1 shares for sale to the general public. The response at the time was poor, with only 50 shares reportedly sold, but other blocks of the £7,000 of authorised capital were sold in 1913, 1914 and 1919 to the public and at other times to directors. Some of the purchasers disappeared over time and their addresses are no longer known, but their names remain on the register. There are now 14 share owners with a total of 120 shares who haven’t so far been traced (13 with eight shares and one with 16).
In 2012 there were 224 shares where the holder had no known address, so as you can see some have since been traced. With a share price well into five figures there is plenty of incentive to try and locate the owners or their descendants and offer to split the proceeds. That is clearly an ongoing process that is being profitably pursued by professional asset finders.
So overall, the picture has not changed greatly since 2012. KSE and R&W have both bought a few more each, and aside from those two major shareholders an extra 115 are held in nominee accounts, making it slightly harder to see patterns in ownership. But there are still a few hundred small shareholders, and if anything there may now be more hardcore fans as shareholders than there have been for many years.