Last updated: April 11, 2011 8:20 am

Kroenke launches £731m Arsenal bid

Arsenal’s protracted ownership saga is set to come to a head after leading shareholder Stan Kroenke made an offer to take control of the English Premier League football club, valuing its equity at £731m.

Mr Kroenke, the US billionaire sports franchise owner who became an Arsenal shareholder in 2007, has sat on a 29.9 per cent stake in the club since November 2009, just shy of the level that requires a formal takeover offer.

Mr Kroenke has now agreed to buy the 16.11 per cent stake of board member Danny Fiszman, who is seriously ill. He has also received irrevocable acceptances from ex-board member Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith – who last April put her 15.9 per cent stake up for sale through Blackstone, the private equity group – and other directors of the club that hold shares, taking his stake to 62.89 per cent.

The US entrepreneur is offering £11,750 a share in cash, with a loan note alternative. The offer is conditional upon Mr Kroenke receiving acceptances of more than 50 per cent.

However, Mr Kroenke is unlikely to persuade Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire steel magnate and Arsenal’s other substantial shareholder, to part with his club stake very easily.

Red & White Holdings, the Arsenal investment vehicle of Mr Usmanov and his partner Farhad Moshiri, owns just more than 27 per cent of the club. Red & White has been largely kept at arm’s length by a board that includes Mr Kroenke, Mr Fiszman and chairman Peter Hill-Wood.

Mr Kroenke was initially made unwelcome when he first became an Arsenal shareholder, but he has since been brought into the fold.

“We are excited about the opportunity to increase our involvement with and commitment to Arsenal, “ Mr Kroenke said in a statement on Monday. “Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsène Wenger. We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success.”

Mr Hill-Wood, who would continue as chairman under the proposed offer, said: “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.”

Support from fans for Mr Kroenke’s move depends on whether or not he intends to involve them in any way in the ownership of the football club.

The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, which claims to speak for up to 15 per cent of Arsenal small shareholders, said: “The AST believes that Arsenal is a stronger institution when supporters are directly involved in its ownership structure. Stan Kroenke has always been a supporter of AST and supporter of shareholders. We expect him to involve us in talks about any position he has.”

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