Having bought 5,000 shares today from Danny Fiszman, Stan Kroenke now becomes the biggest shareholder on the board with 20.5% of the total shareholding. He isn`t the biggest shareholder overall, that is Alisher Usmanov who holds some 25% through his Red&White Holdings interest. Fiszman remains a significant shareholder still at 16.1%.
The announcement follows a story at the weekend that Lady Nina, who holds 15.9% , was contemplating selling her shares. Ivan Gazidis, the club`s new CEO, admits that while he has had a couple of meetings with Usmanov and Moshiri he has yet to ‘initiate a dialogue` with her. He does say that Lady Nina hasn`t said that she was looking to sell her shares but if that were the case there would be interest from the current board in acquiring them.
This process of shareholder succession has been going on for some time. The current board with Fiszman and Kroenke working in tandem looks to hold the strongest hand and with today`s transfer of shares Kroenke is now the strongest partner. In practice though that may have been the case for some time.
A story in the recent book by Fynn and Whitcher tells of the time in April 2008 when Edelman sat alongside Kroenke at a match chatting sporadically to Stan who listened patiently but silently. By the end of the month Edelman was gone. His replacement, which seemed to take an age, was to be a man well known to Kroenke, in the form of Gazidis who was a member of the founding management team of the MLS and later became its deputy commissioner. It was a decision that was not apparently endorsed by Lady Nina and supposedly led to her departure from the board.
Gazidis said today “He [Kroenke] is someone I have known since 2003 when he became a member of Major League Soccer`s board – I used to work at Major League Soccer. He is really a model owner, he is an owner in a number of different US sports leagues. He takes a long-term view and he believes in the model that Arsenal is being run on, that of self-sustainability. He has developed a good relationship with the other members of the Board. I think the fact that Danny has felt comfortable selling his shares to Stan speaks volumes”
Undoubtedly there are some acts still to be played in this board room saga. But while, at the moment, it looks as those Kroenke has the greater grip on the clubs levers importantly the concept of multiple ownership seems set to live on for some time yet.
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