Aristocrat of Arsenal plays hard to get

Steve Dinneen
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LADY Nina Bracewell-Smith will resist selling her stake in Arsenal despite growing pressure from the club’s two biggest shareholders.

Speculation reached fever pitch yesterday after it emerged Bracewell-Smith has hired US buyout group Blackstone to advise her over her 15.9 per cent holding in the Gunners. The news coincided with the deadline for Arsenal’s leading shareholder Stan Kroenke to decide whether he will accept a bid for his 40 per cent holding in NFL outfit St Louis Rams.

It is thought the American will attempt to wrest control of Arsenal if he opts to accept the £300m windfall.

However City A.M. has learned Bracewell-Smith is unwilling to sell to either Kroenke, who owns 29.9 per cent of the club, or his Russian rival Alisher Usmanov, with 26.3 per cent.

A source close to the matter said bad blood between Bracewell-Smith and Kroenke runs deep after she was acrimoniously dumped from the club’s board of directors in 2008.

The aristocrat is said to have hired Blackstone to field bids for the stake but she is willing to play hardball and will not be rushed into parting with the shares.

“She was incredibly badly treated by the board, which included Kroenke,” the source said. “It is unlikely she will part with her shares unless the offer is very favourable indeed. She is an independently wealthy woman and she has no need to sell them.”

It is understood Bracewell-Smith will refuse any offer close to £8,500 a share – the level that Kroenke has been snapping them up at. An offer of £10,500 is likely to be more tempting.

Blackstone and Arsenal both declined to comment.