Arsenal bring Kroenke on board to resist Usmanov
Saturday, 20 September 2008

AFP, LONDON  - American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke has joined Arsenal's board in a move designed to bolster the club's defences against a potential takeover by Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov.

The appointment of Kroenke was announced Friday as the club unveiled a bumper rise in profit for the year to May.
 
Kroenke, who owns a 12.4 percent stake in the club, joins as a non-executive director following a rapprochement with chairman Peter Hill-Wood and other shareholders opposed to any bid from Usmanov, who owns just under 25 percent of the club through his company Red and White Holdings.
 
Arsenal's pre-tax profit rose to 36.7 million pounds, up from 26.9 million pounds a year earlier, underlining the success of the club's 2006 move to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium.
 
Gate and match-day revenue at the Emirates totalled 94.6 million pounds, representing 45 percent of the club's total turnover of 223.7 million.
 
Kroenke, who has not ruled out making his own bid for full control of Arsenal at some point in the future, has reserved the right to increase his stake by declining to join a "lockdown" agreement in force between Hill-Wood and other leading shareholders. Under the agreement, shareholders with a combined stake of more than 50 percent of the club have agreed not to reduce or increase their stakes without prior agreement among themselves.
 
Kroenke has agreed however not to launch a takeover bid in the next 12 months, unless someone else does so first or he is given a green light from the board.
 
Kroenke is the boss of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which, amongst other interests, owns the NFL's St Louis Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids.
 
"It is a real honour to be invited to join the board of Arsenal given their pre-eminent reputation and position in football worldwide," said the Denver-based billionaire.
 
"I hope my background in sports management will be an asset to Arsenal in their commercial dealings going forward."
 
Hill-Wood was quoted last year as saying he did not want Kroenke's "sort" at Arsenal but relations have since thawed and the Gunners chairman implied Friday that Kroenke had agreed not to rock the boat.
 
"Mr Kroenke fully supports the approach the board has taken in setting the direction of the club," Hill-Wood said, adding that the American's experience in sports management, media rights and real estate would be of great value to Arsenal as the club seeks to increase revenues.
 
Hill-Wood went on to underline that Arsenal's financial success would result in manager Arsene Wenger been given the resources to bring in new players if he felt that was necessary.
 
"We remain firmly committed to sustained investment in the development of the playing squad in a market place where the income from the new Premier League TV contracts has inevitably created a significant upward pressure on both transfer prices and players' wage expectations."
 
Despite having cash at his disposal, Wenger has been parsimonious in the transfer market and Arsenal's much-publicised refusal to match the salaries on offer at other big clubs was seen as a factor in the summer departure of Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb.
 
Nevertheless, the club's overall wage bill rose from 89.7 million pounds in 2006-07 to 101.3 million pounds, as a result of contract extensions for several players and Wenger.
 
Arsenal's overall debt rose to 318.1 million pounds but that figure is expected to fall sharply in the current year as the bulk of the flats built in the redevelopment of Arsenal's old home, Highbury, come up for sale.

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