ARSENAL owner-in-waiting Stan Kroenke’s hopes of a swift completion to his proposed £730m takeover were hit last night after it emerged that rival shareholder Alisher Usmanov is ready to put up a fight.
Usmanov, who has long vied with Kroenke for control of the Gunners, attempted to gazump the American on Sunday night when he learned of his bid by offering a higher price for Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s 16 per cent stake.
Bracewell-Smith rejected the offer of £13,000 per share – £1,250 more than she will receive from Kroenke – and it was confirmed yesterday that she and director Danny Fiszman, who also owns 16 per cent, have agreements in place to sell their holdings to the Denver sports tycoon.
Arsenal insiders told City A.M. they believe her irrevocable undertaking to Kroenke to be watertight, but sources close to Usmanov say they have not yet examined the details of the agreement, while his actions indicates he has not given up hope of owning the club.
Kroenke (inset) now controls 63 per cent of the Premier League outfit and yesterday submitted a formal offer for the remaining shares, including Usmanov’s 27 per cent. But the Uzbek metals tycoon is thought to be upset at Kroenke being able to agree secret deals with Fiszman and Bracewell-Smith and is in no mood to step aside.
Sources close to Usmanov told City A.M. that while a rival bid was now less likely a sale of his stake to Kroenke was by no means a foregone conclusion and that the billionaire was in no hurry to cash in on shares valued at £197m.
Usmanov’s stake could, in theory, be worth more in a few years time if, as expected, Arsenal pay down the remaining £250m debt accrued in moving to the Emirates Stadium.
However Arsenal sources question whether Kroenke would make a more generous offer to a minority shareholder such as Usmanov at a later date when they can do little to obstruct his running of the club in the meantime.
Kroenke insiders believe the American is well aware that Usmanov, who has never been offered a seat on the board, may reject his takeover offer.
The Arsenal board, which has long since anointed Kroenke as its favoured successor, has recommended shareholders accept Kroenke’s cash offer of £11,750 per share, which values the club at £731m.