Arsenal’s concern as Alisher Usmanov gives himself a Christmas present

Russian oligarch set to match Stan Kroenke and increase stake to 29.9 per cent

Alisher Usmanov has an unwelcome Christmas present for Arsenal – he is planning to increase his stake in the club to give him the power to block any potential takeover bid.

The Russian billionaire’s investment company Red & White Holdings is currently the second largest stakeholder in Arsenal, with a stake of 27 per cent.

The American sports tycoon and Arsenal director, Stan Kroenke, is the major shareholder with 29.98 per cent, just 0.02 per cent below the mandatory takeover threshold of 30 per cent.

Now Usmanov, the 57-year-old oligarch originally from Uzbekistan, wants to reach parity with the American and is looking to buy up a further 2.90 per cent early in the new year.

“I chose to invest significant money in Arsenal because I consider it to be one the world’s most well-structured football clubs, with one of the best stadiums and led by a genius coach, Arsene Wenger,” Usmanov said in a broadcast on Russian state television today. “I don’t regret this investment. It’s not dropping in value, it’s rising only.

“The goal is to increase the holding up to a blocking stake, 29.9 per cent. “Afterwards, we’ll see what to do further. If all the shareholders are united by then like they are now, we’ll keep it as that level.”

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Despite that assurance, the news will concern the Arsenal board given that the fourth largest shareholder, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, has been trying to sell her 15.90 per cent stake since the start of the year. Long-serving director Danny Fiszman, with 16.11 per cent, is the other major shareholder.

Arsenal shares are currently worth �11,125 each, valuing the club at an overall price of �692m, which is the amount Kroenke or Usmanov would have to pay to assume total control.