Alisher Usmanov Q&A – Some Facts For Arsenal Fans

Who is Alisher Usmanov?

He’s a billionaire from Uzbekistan in the former Soviet Union, though often referred to as Russian, who owns all of Red And White Holdings, among many other things. He used to share Red And White with business partner Farhad Moshiri, who has since departed to buy 49.9 per cent of Everton.

How rich is Usmanov?

Very rich. Estimates of his wealth vary, but it seems to be comfortably over $10 billion. I haven’t checked lately, but he’s probably in the world’s top 100 richest people, possibly top 50.

Has Usmanov always been an Arsenal supporter?

He claims to have been a supporter for some years, though there’s no evidence of any particular allegiance for any length of time.

Does Usmanov go to Arsenal matches?

He certainly goes to some, but as I’m not there with my binoculars every week I can’t say exactly how many. But he’s got two executive boxes knocked together into one ‘superbox’, so he has the world’s most expensive season ticket.

Why did Usmanov get interested in buying Arsenal?

He says because he’s a fan and wants the best for the club. He believes Arsenal is underfunded and would like to put more money in.

Why doesn’t he put money into Arsenal now, then?

He’s previously offered to put in an equivalent amount (in terms of share percentages owned) to majority shareholder Stan Kroenke by way of a rights issue. Mr Kroenke has always maintained this is unnecessary.

Would Usmanov put money in if he was sole owner?

He’s indicated that he would, but as we know from the world of politics it’s easy to make promises when you are in opposition, and often the tune changes when you get into power. There are limits these days to how much the wage bill can rise, but FFP seems to have been largely thrown out so other restrictions on pumping money in have gone. In any case clever owners try and get round them with things like advantageous sponsorship deals (eg £400m Etihad Stadium sponsorship). It would also be possible to repay Arsenal’s stadium debt early, which would be within football governing body rules and free up approximately £20m of repayment and interest charges each year. The current Board has said there is no need to do this, given the manageable nature of the debt – annual payments are about 5 per cent of turnover.

What other reason could he have for wanting to own Arsenal?

Three or four really: one – he wants a new toy, in the manner of Roman Abramovich, something to play with; two – he thinks it will enhance his status to own a major and world famous football club; three – he thinks he can make money from it; four – also like Abramovich, it’s a good place to put money where political enemies in other countries can’t make a grab for it if circumstances change.

Could Usmanov make money from Arsenal?

In the long run, probably. Global media rights are growing in value. Stan Kroenke no doubt thinks the same thing.

How many shares has Usmanov got?

Since 2014 Red And White have apparently bought zero shares and have held a total of 18,695, which is 30.04 per cent of the total. For the latest position, look here on Arsenal.com. Arsenal usually reconfirm or update this figure every week.

Why does Usmanov’s share position get announced on Arsenal.com?

Premier League rules and stock market rules both apply. Any director who buys or sells a share has to put out an official announcement immediately. This applies to Mr Kroenke at present, but not Mr Usmanov. Non-director shareholders have to announce whenever they go over a whole percentage threshold. So there were announcements on the NEX Exchange (formerly ISDX, formerly plus Markets) website for Mr Usmanov reaching 29%, 28%, etc. The Premier League rules are ambiguous, but say that all shareholdings over 10% have to be announced. They’re not clear on whether every share needs to be announced above 10% for non-directors, but Arsenal reconfirm the two major shareholdings very regularly.

Has Usmanov inflated the Arsenal share price with his purchases?

Yes and no. The price rose sharply when Kroenke and Usmanov were both buying, then drifted for a while but has recently risen again. But it’s not excessive when you look at turnover and consider marketing potential. Football is big business these days. So although Usmanov’s desire for shares pushed prices higher, there is actually business justification for it too.

Why did Usmanov want to get to 30% of Arsenal shares?

Because the Premier League used to treat a 30% shareholder as an owner, and didn’t differentiate between situations where the 30% shareholder is the biggest shareholder, and where there is another majority shareholder as there is with Arsenal. So Usmanov hoped that when he got to 30% the Premier League would give him all the rights and privileges of an owner, despite the fact that Arsenal already has a majority owner. They didn’t though. They changed the rules to ensure majority owners weren’t inconvenienced.

Why doesn’t Usmanov having 30% of shares give him a seat on the Arsenal Board?

Because directors are appointed by a majority of shareholders, and Stan Kroenke has a majority. So Usmanov will only become a director if Kroenke decides he should.

Why didn’t Usmanov have to make a bid for Arsenal when he got to 30% of the shares?

The Takeover Code says this:
The [Takeover] Panel will consider waiving the requirement for a general offer . . . where:
(a) holders of shares carrying 50% or more of the voting rights state in writing that they would not accept such an offer; or
(b) shares carrying 50% or more of the voting rights are already held by one other person.

Obviously Mr Kroenke has more than 50%, and gives every indication that he has no intention of selling. So the Takeover Panel did not insist that Usmanov made a bid when he reached 30%.

Can Usmanov make a bid for Arsenal anyway?

He can make a bid anytime he wants to. The most likely time to go public with it is the close season, so he can’t be accused of derailing the team’s efforts. His recent bid has been made public before the season is over, which is odd. The rumour is that the leaked information came from sources within the club rather than from the Usmanov camp, who were not expecting a definitive answer until the season ended.

If/when Usmanov makes a bid for Arsenal, what is the minimum price will he have to pay?

The general rule is that a bidder must offer the highest price he has paid for a share in the 12 months preceding a bid. However, there are plenty of reasons for exceptions. The Takeover code lists the following:
Circumstances which the Panel might take into account when considering an adjustment of the highest price include:
(a) the size and timing of the relevant acquisitions;
(b) the attitude of the board of the offeree company;
(c) whether interests in shares had been acquired at high prices from directors or other persons closely connected with the offeror or the offeree company;
(d) the number of shares in which interests have been acquired in the preceding 12 months;
(e) if an offer is required in order to enable a company in serious financial difficulty to be rescued;
(f) if an offer is required in the circumstances set out in Note 12 on Rule 9.1;
and
(g) if an offer is required in the circumstances set out in Rule 37.1.
The price payable in the circumstances set out above will be the price that is fair and reasonable taking into account all the factors that are relevant to the
circumstances.
Basically there is plenty of scope for the Takeover Panel to make any decision they like.

As at May 2017, Usmanov has not bought a share for three years (not admitted it anyway), so the 12-month rule doesn’t apply. In practice, the current market price is around £18,000 per share anyway, and Kroenke definitely wouldn’t sell without a substantial premium on that. If he’d sell at all.

What price has Usmanov paid for Arsenal shares?

He claims never to have paid over £14,000 for a share. From my studies of changes in share ownership I’m somewhat dubious about this claim, but it would only be a very small number of Usmanov’s total at a higher figure than that. I estimate that the average price he’s paid for his 18,695 shares is around £10,000 per share at most, so a total investment somewhere in the region of £180 million.

When will the battle for ownership of Arsenal between Kroenke and Usmanov be resolved?

Nobody knows. Will Kroenke stay true to his stated principle of never selling any part of any of his sports clubs? Or will he get bored with visits to the UK and figure he can use the money better in ther US? He said in 2011 that he’d looked at ‘between eight and 15’ other clubs before settling on Arsenal. That suggests it was hardly an impulse purchase and isn’t likely to be given up lightly.

Is Alisher Usmanov the right owner for Arsenal?

Debatable. Some fans think he’d spend Abramovich-style money to get Arsenal back to the top, and that’s all they care about. As I said above, there’s no evidence he would. Others point to his shady past, about which much has been written. Easy to find on Google. He passes the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper persons’ test, but then so does pretty much anyone. Basically he might be the right owner if you really don’t care about the character of the owner.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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5 thoughts on “Alisher Usmanov Q&A – Some Facts For Arsenal Fans

  1. Both Kroenke and Usmanov are morally reprehensible: Kroenke is married to an heir to the Walmart fortune, an anti-union, low wage paying supermarket chain that makes SportsDirect seem charming towards its employees. Walmart is also a massive seller of sub machine guns in its supermarkets and online. Kroenke happens to be a big donor to Donald Trump. Usmanov has been involved in alleged corruption, fraud, etc throughout his career. Hardly nice guys. However, while Kroenke is hated by the fans of all his teams, as he seems uninterested in real sporting success, especially if it costs him anything, Usmanov, given his ego and competitiveness with fellow oligarchs would probably want Arsenal to be successful on the field, not just on its balance sheet.

    • Not sure you can blame Kroenke himself for the actions of his wife’s family at Walmart, though I doubt he’s tried to do anything about it either. Any Trump supporter also has to be questioned, to put it mildly. However, there are degrees in all this and allegations against Usmanov are worse.
      You may be right about Usmanov’s attitude to winning, though.

      • Nice comments. One thought: It’s not a matter of blaming him for the actions of his wife, but rather pointing out the source of his money that enabled him to buy his sports teams initially.

      • Well I haven’t delved too deeply into it, but Wikipedia claims he was already wealthy from property investment when he met his wife, though she certainly made him wealthier. But I think we’re in general agreement overall.

  2. Usmanov is on record as wanting the Club to pay dividends. Anyone who’ll screw his own countryman to get rich and who’s father ran the State Police in Uzbekistan to suit the USSR is not someone I want as the owner. Unfortunately neither is the detestable arse who is happy to kick people out of their homes or move his Club 900 miles and screw their fans. Kroenke is on record as saying ‘If you want to win championships then you would never get involved.’ His other clubs are by and large all failures. You just can’t have that many and give a shit about them all, or I suspect any.

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