Yesterday’s game against Blackpool has paled into insignificance against the news that Stan Kroenke has taken over control of Arsenal, bringing his stakeholding to 62.9%. Much to write about that news – but first, the game at Bloomfield Road.
I was happy to visit my local bookies and walk out with my Arsenally wallet bulging with my takings. It’s been a while since I’ve got one over the bookmakers.
It was a bit of a scrappy affair, and we certainly had some nervous moments. Blackpool should have had a penalty when we were only 2-1 up; Ian Holloway’s claims that v Persie was offside for our third were way off the mark. He admitted that according to the rules, he wasn’t offside. Well that’s that, isn’t it?
Having laid into our ‘reserve’ players in my rant of a preview, I was indeed happy to see Diaby prove me wrong with a fine goal, and delighted to see Eboue notch one up as well. I maintain that we rarely see consistent good performances from the Frenchman. I truly hope he proves me wrong against Liverpool this Sunday.
Onto the bigger news as Kroenke’s investment vehicle Kroenke Sports Enterprises announced this morning that it was paying £11,750 a share to increase its stake in Arsenal FC to 62.9% from 29.9%, by buying out Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and Danny Fiszman. The offer values the club at £731 million, which is about $1.2 billion. To put that in perspective, in 2009 ManUre were valued at $1.9 billion.
We knew that Lady Nina had been trying to sell her shares for a while, and I can’t help but feel that Fiszman’s decision to sell has something to do with the fact that he is seriously ill, and if rumours are to be believed, not long of this earth.
I’m thoroughly relieved that Fiszman and Lady Nina didn’t sell to Usmanov’s Red and White Holdings. If you believe even some of what has been written about the man, the less he has to do with Arsenal the better.
The notion that any owner or shareholder must be someone who grew up within spitting distance of Herbert Chapman’s bust and a season ticket holder from birth is antiquated. In the modern, 21st Century Premiership we must recognise that billlionaires will buy clubs for financial reasons, as well as for the traditional “true love of sport”. And from what I can tell, compared with Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool and the Glazers at ManUre, we’ve got the best deal by a country mile.
Stock market rules necessitate that Kroenke makes an offer for the remaining shares. This may result in him upping his holding, but it is extremely unlikely to result in full control of the club passing to “Silent Stan”. Usmanov may sell – seeing as he now has no chance of a takeover himself, has no seat on the board, and in short no future as any kind of influence on the future of the club.
The Arsenal Supporters Trust will more than likely hang onto its shares to a man, and the other shareholders are current members of the board and thus unlikely to sell themselves.
The absolutely crucial point about this takeover, is that unlike the American purchases of Liverpool and ManUre, the buy-out has not been leveraged against club assets. Kroenke is not saddling the club with debt. That is something for which we have to be overwhelmingly, exultantly, jubilantly thankful.
So, what do we know about the man? And what will he bring to the club?
He originally made his money in property, and his wife is a scion of the Wal-mart owning Walton family. Nicknamed ‘Silent Stan’ because of his low profile, he collects sports clubs, already owning Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (Ice Hockey), St Louis Rams (American Football) and Colorado Rapids (MLS).
The 63-year-old claims his love of sport stems from listening to baseball on the radio with his grandfather. His father clearly was sports-mad, as his full name Enos Stanley Kroenke was given in tribute to baseball players Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial – part of the St Louis Cardinals team that won the World Series three times in the 1940s.
Born in Missouri, Kroenke also owns a regional sports TV network, a sports arena and soccer park and a real estate portfolio that includes shopping centres, office and apartment buildings, vineyards and ranches throughout North America.
Forbes magazine listed him last year as worth $2.9 billion, while his wife Ann Walton Kroenke of the Walmart Walton family has a net worth of a similar amount.
According to Paul Andrews, VP of KSE:
He is just a brilliant man, a legendary businessman, who has done things in his life that 99.9 per cent of the world didn’t have the amount of drive and success to do. He has built something from when he was a kid until now and he is just a very genuine individual that likes to play basketball, loves to talk sports, loves to watch sports. If he was sitting with you and me now, he would be just a normal guy.
I’m not going to be fooled by such a sycophantic quote from an employee clearly after a bonus, but it does hint at a quiet, family man who has a genuine love of sport.
An American journalist tried to track him down for an interview concerning his Amercan sports interests:
Kroenke descends into town like a whisper and vanishes like an apparition…Kroenke tends to deliver long, elaborate and detailed answers to questions, seemingly completing one thought but then immediately adding a follow-on statement just when you think it’s safe to blurt out a new question…He dodges few subjects, or at least he is skilled enough to avoid the appearance of dodging them, but at the same time delivers little pith. He is hardly the sort of mogul who can fill a writer’s notebook with colorful quotations, although he does seem to become genuinely excited when talking about NBA players and athletics in general.
I found Stan Kroenke’s public mien to be understated, mannered, polite and thoughtful. He was, as it turned out, quite normal. Or at least as normal as a billionaire can seem.
So, why Arsenal? To quote the superb Swiss Ramble:
It’s the biggest football club in London with a brand-new world-class stadium that generates over £3m revenue a game. While other clubs struggle financially, Arsenal are making good profits and paying down their debt.
Another reason is that there is an appreciable amount of under-performing in the commercial aspect of the club. Expect to see more of Arsenal abroad, in the States and the East. I’m not sure that we’ll be spending our usual pre-season in a quiet Alpine resort this summer; I imagine we’ll spend it across the pond. In the commercial side of things, we already have Ivan Gazidis’s experience of MLS, and another Arsenal employee is a Stan Kroenke-influenced hire who came from the NBA – Tom Fox, our Chief Commercial Officer. Expect some changes in the way our TV and internet content is owned, marketed, and priced. To quote Ivan Gazidis on Kroenke a while ago:
Look at Stan Kroenke in the Denver market. He not only owns sports teams, he owns stadiums and the TV station that distributes the sport on local TV. He aggregates content and he distributes it. He even owns the in-house ticketing system (TicketHorse).
As for the all-important question of whether he’ll provide more money for transfers, all the statements that have come from the official site stress that he wishes to continue the self-sustaining business model that Ivan Gazidis already has in place.
It’s worth bearing in mind that in past transfer windows, it has been Wenger himself who has taken the decision not to spend a fortune on an established name, and it’s not the case that the board denied him a player that he really wanted in the squad.
Silent Stan has pledged to take Arsenal “to new success”, and we can only hope that we enjoy the same success as Colorado Avalanche. They won the 2001 Stanley Cup in their first season under Kroenke’s ownership.
Will the American usher in a new period of prolonged success at the club? To quote the official site:
This information on the Web Page, including information included or incorporated by reference in this announcement, may contain “forward looking statements” concerning the KSE Entity Group and the Arsenal Group. Generally, the words “will”, “may”, “should”, “continue”, “believes”, “expects”, “intends”, “anticipates” or similar expressions identify forward looking statements. The forward looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those suggested by them.