Fans call for shareholders to reject offer

Julian Harris
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ALISHER USMANOV should be invited to “work together” with the Arsenal board if he holds onto his stake in the club, a leading Arsenal supporters’ group said last night.

The statement marked a rapid turnaround in attitude to the controversial billionaire, who is now seen as a vital block against a full takeover of the club by American Stanley Kroenke.

“Arsenal is too important to be owned by a single one person,” Tim Payton, spokesperson for the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST), told City A.M.

“Usmanov’s group has constantly told us that they are long term investors in the club, and we hope they hold true to their word.”

If Usmanov maintains his stake, it would be natural for him to be offered a place on the board, the AST said at an emergency meeting last night.

It is “unlikely” that Kroenke will purchase over 90 per cent of the remaining shares in the club to force a squeeze-out of existing small shareholders, the AST said.

The AST welcomed the American’s pledge not to delist Arsenal from the PLUS markets, while noting that Kroenke’s bid says “there is no current expectation…for squeezing-out minority shareholders.”

There are currently around 1,600 minor shareholders in Arsenal, holding around 10 per cent of the club. The AST claims to represent around three per cent of stakeholders, while a further 1,800 fans have joined the AST’s “Fanshare” scheme, which sells affordable chunks of shares to its members, funded by monthly payments.