Edelman quits the Emirates - so what does this mean for Arsenal?

KEITH EDELMAN'S decision to leave Arsenal has sparked genuine fears that the club could once again be under threat from a takeover bid by foreign investors. Managing director Edelman announced his departure on Thurs

By Arsenal correspondent Paul Chronnell

KEITH EDELMAN'S decision to leave Arsenal has sparked genuine fears that the club could once again be under threat from a takeover bid by foreign investors.

Managing director Edelman announced his departure on Thursday to seek "fresh challenges" after eight years in the job.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Arsenal," said Edelman in a club statement. "It has been a very exciting period for the business and I am proud to have contributed to the club's many off-field achievements over the past eight years, not least the Emirates Stadium project.

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"Now that we have completed our second season at Emirates, I believe it is the right time to seek pastures new and embark upon fresh challenges."

Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood was gracious in his praise of the man who many saw as the major financial brain behind Arsenal's recent growth.

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During his tenure Edelman helped oversee the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium, and negotiated huge deals with the likes of Granada Media, Nike, and of course Emirates Airlines that have seen the club's turnover increase at astonishing levels.

"Keith has played a major role in the growth of the club since he joined in 2000. In that time we have successfully implemented the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium that has underpinned the future of the business and confirmed our position as one of Europe's leading clubs," said Hill-Wood.

"We are grateful to Keith for his crucial role in this transformation. Under Keith's stewardship the club has achieved record profits and the board owes him a debt of gratitude for his contribution. We wish him the very best for the future."

However, Edelman's decision to leave a little over a year after former vice-chairman David Dein adds further fuel to the theory that all is not well behind the scenes in the Emirates boardroom.

Edelman was an outspoken critic of the foreign investment in the club that has seen 24.2% of shares go to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov's Red & White Holdings Plc, and a further 12.19% to the American Stan Kroenke.

Not a major shareholder himself, Edelman was in support of the 'lockdown' agreement made last year that saw all of Arsenal's other leading shareholders agree to not sell their shares to anyone from outside until 2012.

However, American sports tycoon Kroenke has not signed the lockdown, despite promptings from the board, and the club are therefore vulnerable to a takeover bid if he sells them to Usmanov.

With the Russian paying an inflated price for the shares, Kroenke could make an estimated £35million profit on selling the stake he initially acquired in April 2007.

The big question seems to be over whether Uzbekistani steel magnate Usmanov, who is thought to be worth almost £6billion, actually wants to take over the club.

Edelman suggested at the end of last year that Red & White Holdings merely want to maintain their investment in Arsenal, given the soaring share price and the record turnover at each of the six-monthly financial reports since the move to the Emirates Stadium in 2006.

Unlike at Chelsea where Roman Abramovich simply bankrolls the club's incredible spending, Arsenal are making a healthy profit and so owning almost a quarter of the club is a healthy position for Usmanov to be in.

He visited London and spoke with the board before the Champions League match against AC Milan at the Emirates in February, but his motives still seem unclear.

Club stalwart Ken Friar, who was managing director for 18 years before Edelman arrived, will revert to the role for an interim period, and Edelman will be "retained" by Arsenal for a year to ensure a smooth transition of all his work to the new permanent managing director when one is found.

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