Is Stan Kroenke’s Wallet Open?

Further to my not very recent last post, there are some people who believe Stan Kroenke is already putting his own money into Arsenal. Why do they think this? To be honest I’m not totally sure, but let’s look at the evidence.

Kroenke took 100 per cent control of Arsenal in the summer of 2018, when he compulsorily bought out the last remaining small shareholders. He was able to do this because Alisher Usmanov sold his 30 per cent to Kroenke, taking the KSE stake to over 90 per cent, which gave Kroenke the right to buy the other shares and de-list from the stock exchange. He wasted no time doing this, bringing Arsenal into line with all his other sports clubs, where he’s always been the sole owner.

By the time Kroenke took 100 per cent control most Arsenal fans had realised he was not an owner in the style of Abramovich or Mansour. He sees sports clubs first and foremost as investment opportunities, with sporting glory a distant second. And unlike the owners of Chelsea and Man City he’s not concerned with his reputation or with becoming a UK resident to protect his personal freedoms from the whims of autocratic leaders back home. In fact in his case he donated money to get the autocratic leader back home elected.

This is not to say Kroenke has no interest in sport. He clearly does, but he has a greater interest in money. His mantra is minimum investment for maximum growth. Trophies are lovely, but they don’t pay bills. Why speculate to accumulate when you can invest in a league that has worldwide appeal and let the growth happen anyway? You don’t need to win the league, just being part of it ensures a share of the riches. So in Kroenke’s mind there has never been a need to pump more money into Arsenal. Nonetheless, some people are convinced he has. They base this belief on the vaguest of statements uttered usually by Kroenke Jr, Josh – a member of the Arsenal Board and recently his father’s representative here on earth (London).

The logic seems to be that because Stan is now 100 per cent owner, he is happy to put his money in, and all that was stopping him before was the fact he’d be somehow subsidising Alisher Usmanov unless the Uzbek also put money in. So if Wee Joshie Kroenke now says something vague like “We will assist the club in any way we can” then people are prepared to believe Stan’s wallet is open.

An article on the Gunners Town blog in April claimed: “The club’s owner, KSE, has input money to shore things up until the pandemic ends.” I asked the writer how he knew this and was told “It’s on the public domain.” Well I’m having trouble locating it, but no further help was forthcoming. I’m thinking the Daily Mail article I referenced last time is the culprit here.

Arsenal held a Fans’ Forum meeting on 6 May. The minutes were out the next day, including some talk of the inevitable financial strain on the club of Covid-19. There was only one mention of the word “Kroenke” in the minutes. I’ll quote the paragraph in full so there’s no chance of taking anything out of context:

“We have taken significant measures on the cost side, to plan in a responsible way. This has included operating spend and capital spend cuts as well as reducing Executive Team earnings over the next year. The players are playing their part. We are the only club in PL whose players have volunteered a cut rather than deferral – 12.5% of annual earnings. We are proud of how the players have stepped up. There is also support being provided by Kroenke, Sports & Entertainment.”

So apparently there is support being provided by KSE. What kind of support? The paragraph has been written to give the impression that money has been handed over, but careful not to actually say that. For all we know it was just a phone call from benevolent Uncle Stan saying “I’m behind you all the way, guys.”

Things then went quiet for a bit while football worked out how to play the rest of the season. Once they solved that and started kicking balls again, inevitably transfer rumours also ramped up, regardless of the fact that very few clubs have any money now, and will struggle to pay everyone, never mind buy new players for ridiculous sums. But still the rumours persisted that Stan would be, or already has, pumped millions into Arsenal, so they’d be rebuilding like crazy.

I carried on cementing my miseryguts credentials by telling everyone this wasn’t going to happen. There’s no money, so no way.

Then what do you know, Arsenal suddenly announce that they are paying off the remainder of the bonds that make up the stadium debt! They’ll do this with a loan from KSE UK Inc, which is solely owned by Stan Kroenke, and which owns Arsenal as it’s only asset. What does this mean? Well quite a few fans got quite excited and declared it must mean it’s spend, spend, spend. Then mostly they calmed down and tried to understand exactly how much better off Arsenal would be before deciding whether Stan Kroenke is really Father Christmas.

To be fair, most people who could be bothered to reply to my question said they hadn’t changed their opinion of Stan, but the general consensus seems to be that this must be a good deal for everyone. But is it? I’ll consider that in part two of this story very shortly… (If and when I can be arsed. Probably wise not to hold your breath TBH.)

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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