‘Arsenal’s future is in safe hands’ after Stan Kroenke wins Emirates takeover battle

Gunners chairman and chief executive voice their support for American billionaire

ARSENAL chief executive Ivan Gazidis has assured supporters that the club’s future is in safe hands after confirming that Stan Kroenke had won the battle to own Arsenal.

Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), the company owned by the 63-year-old American billionaire who first bought into the club four years ago, will assume overall control of Arsenal after moving to buy the stakes owned by director Danny Fiszman and former director Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith on Monday.

It means that after 125 years of English rule, Arsenal will join 10 other Premier League clubs in being overseas-owned, but Gazidis told supporters he was confident that little would change despite the change of ownership.

“It lends stability and continuity, so I don’t think there will be a tremendous change in the way that the club has been run,” said Gazidis.

“We’ve looked at the price that is being offered and have concluded that it is a fair and reasonable price. And we’ve also looked at the confirmations that have been given by KSE as to the way that Arsenal will be run. And in light of all of those factors we have decided that we are recommending the offer to shareholders.

“Mr Kroenke has confirmed that there will not be debt finance that depends on the business of Arsenal. He’s also confirmed that he will continue with the self-sustaining business model that has achieved success for Arsenal. He’s also been on the board, remember, for the last three years, so this is not a new presence at the club.

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“We’re looking forward to Mr Kroenke bringing his sports experience to the table. He’s had success across his different sports businesses so I think that we can anticipate that this will be a positive deal.”

Kroenke will spend �230m on buying Fiszman’s 16.1 per cent stake and the 15.9 per cent owned by Bracewell-Smith.

The purchases take him to an overall 62 per cent ownership of the club’s shares, and way beyond the 30 per cent threshold to trigger a takeover bid.

He now has 28 days to put his proposals to other shareholders, the principal of whom remains the Russian Alisher Usmanov, whose Red & White holdings group own a 27.1 per cent stake.

Usmanov, who bought his first chunk of shares from deposed vice-chairman David Dein in 2007, declined to comment on Monday, but he and his business partner Farhad Moshiri are under no obligation to sell.

If they remain as shareholders, Kroenke will be unable to surpass the 90 per cent threshold that gives him total control of the club, a position of power enjoyed by the likes of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and the Glazer family at Manchester United.

Without it, Kroenke still needs the support of 75 per cent of the club’s shareholders to make significant changes to the way the club is run.

The main driving force behind the deal appears to be the deteriorating health of Fiszman, who has been battling throat cancer for the last three years.

The 66-year-old will receive around �115million for his stake, and his decision to sell paved the way for Kroenke to take control and not Usmanov, who has not been welcomed on to the club’s board, a privilege accorded to Kroenke in 2008.

Chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who will retain his role as chairman of the club, reiterated that the current board trusts Kroenke to maintain Arsenal’s traditions and philosophy.

“The board of directors and I consider it a key responsibility to protect the ethos and spirit of the club,” said Hill-Wood.

“Mr Kroenke, although relatively new to Arsenal, has shown himself to be a man who values and respects the history and traditions of this very special club that we cherish. We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its future.”

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