Kroenke one step closer to Arsenal goal

US SPORTS tycoon Stan Kroenke yesterday inched closer to his dream of taking over Arsenal Football Club, after its board confirmed that he had upped his stake to 28.7 per cent.<br /><br />The owner of the Denver Nuggets basketball team bought a further 80 shares in the Premiership club for &pound;680,000, nudging him closer to the 29.9 per cent stake threshold which would force him to make a formal takeover bid.<br /><br />Kroenke&rsquo;s latest acquisition of shares has led people close to Arsenal&rsquo;s second-largest shareholder, Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, to question why the board does not demand that he make his intentions clear.<br /><br />&ldquo;It seems like he is trying to take the club over, and that the board are helping,&rdquo; said one source. &ldquo;Otherwise why are they not asking him if he is prepared to rule out making a bid?&rsquo;<br /><br />Kroenke has more than doubled his stake in the club over the past year &ndash; to become its biggest holder &ndash; by buying shares from board directors Richard Carr and Danny Fiszman.<br /><br />He was initially shunned by the club&rsquo;s chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, who said that Arsenal did not need &ldquo;his sort&rdquo;. But evidence of stake building by steel magnate Usmanov prompted an allegiance to the US investor, and he was offered a seat on the board last year.<br /><br />However, it is said that former board member Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith has considered selling part of her stake to Kroenke&rsquo;s rival, Usmanov.<br /><br />Last week Arsenal posted a 37 per cent increase in full-year pre-tax profit to &pound;35.2m, boosted by a strong showing in cup competitions and property sales.