Arsenal put Kroenke in position to take over club

Kroenke will not own a controlling stake in Arsenal Wholesale Jerseys just yet. The “friends and family” group of core directors, headed by Danny Fiszman (24.1 per cent owner) and Lady Nina Bracewell Smith (15.9 per cent) have shown no appetite to sell, immediately at least.

But the deal will put Kroenke in the box seat to buy control later, raising the chances that he will follow in the footsteps of his fellow American Premier League club owners the Glazers (Manchester United), Tom Hicks and George Gillett (Liverpool) and Randy Lerner (Aston Villa).

The Independent can reveal that Arsenal first tried to persuade Kroenke to accept a seat on the board last autumn, hoping to announce it at their October AGM. The board wanted to send a strong message to the Uzbek predator, Alisher Usmanov, that, given a choice of billionaire investors, they preferred Kroenke to Usmanov.

But Kroenke was in no rush, understandably given that Arsenal’s chairman, Peter Hill Wood, had at first been so sniffy about Kroenke’s initial purchase of 9.9 per cent of the club.

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As recently as April of last year, Hill Wood said of Kroenke: “Call me old fashioned, but we don’t need his money and we don’t want his sort. [Americans] know absolutely sweet FA about our football.”

Relations between the board and Kroenke have since warmed, in no small part due to the bridge building work of the influential Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, which has the ear of all the major parties. The AST has been in dialogue with Kroenke for more than a year. Kroenke hosted the AST on a trip to Denver earlier this month, and, in recent correspondence, the AST urged him to seize the opportunity of a board role, as long as it is for the benefit of Arsenal.

Kroenke has talked privately of his “strong commitment” to football, and to Arsenal, long term. His track record as a sports patron boosts his credentials. He owns or controls teams in America’s NFL, NBA and NHL, as well as owning the MLS’s Colorado Rapids. He has never sold a share of any team he has invested in. He has spent heavily on a stadium and youth facilities for the Rapids. He sees huge potential for the Gunners to be marketed worldwide, and appreciates Arsenal’s excellent reputation.

When Kroenke becomes an Arsenal director he will become party to the privileges of the “lock down” agreement governing the “friends and family” shares. That will give him first option on buying other “lock down” shares (the 45 per cent owned by Fiszman and Co) until 2012, as and when they sell. It is highly likely portions of those shares will be sold to Kroenke in that time.

Kroenke’s place on the board will send a clear message to Usmanov who owns a fraction under 25 per cent that the board will do anything to stop Usmanov getting a controlling stake.

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“Stan’s seat on the board is weeks away, it’s just a case of dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the Authentic Arizona Cardinals Jerseys 2017 Lastest And Cheap ‘t’s,” an insider said. That view is backed by sources on both sides of the Atlantic.

The news will be a major blow to the ambitions of the former Arsenal vice chairman, David Dein, to return to the club. Dein sold Usmanov his shares in the club (almost 15 per cent) last August, hoping to return to Arsenal under an Usmanov regime.

But Usmanov has no track record in football and his intentions are unclear. He continues to buy up as many of Arsenal’s 62,217 shares as he can. The Independent understands he bought a single share last Friday, four others last Thursday, and seven a week ago on Monday, at prices between 8,500 and 8,800 each.

It seems he is desperate to take his stock just above 25 per cent, at which point he would have a “blocking stake”. That would not hinder any day to day club activity, but could become a nuisance if the board needs more than 75 per cent of votes to implement special resolutions, for example to restructure debt, or issue new shares.

Kroenke is attracted by a board role about which he has been informed: “Your experience in property development, sports marketing and TV rights will undoubtedly add value to the board.”

He will have input on commercial, media and club development matters, and he will also be able to have a say on what kind of executives Arsenal require to replace Dein (who was an excellent “fixer” on all kinds of club business), and Keith Edelman, the recently departed managing director. Arsenal have already appointed City head hunters to find candidates.

Most significantly, Kroenke will accede to the all important “lock down” agreement, which means board members can only sell to each other (or family) until 18 April 2009, and must give first refusal on their shares to each other (in effect, to Kroenke) until 18 October 2012.

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