Usmanov waits on the touchline as Arsenal board mulls over rights issue

THE BOARD of Arsenal football club was yesterday locked in talks over major stakeholder Alisher Usmanov&rsquo;s proposal that the club should launch a &pound;75m-&pound;150m rights issue, to pay off some of its &pound;320m debt and fund player transfers.<br /><br />Despite having significant influence through his 25 per cent stake in the company, the Uzbeki billionaire was not present as he has not been given a seat on the board.<br /><br />The proposal poses a challenge to major stakeholders who do have board representation &ndash; 28 per cent shareholder Stan Kroenke and 16 per cent shareholder Danny Fiszman &ndash; to put their money where their mouth is and invest more into the club.<br /><br />Usmanov, who feels that he is shut out of club strategy, is battling to re-assert his power after Kroenke recently overtook him as the club&rsquo;s largest stakeholder.<br /><br />Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said that the club is &ldquo;open minded&rdquo; on a rights issue, but directors are reluctant to depart from its aim of keeping its finances in manageable order.<br /><br />A dismissal of the proposal is unlikely to deter Usmanov, whose options to secure more control of the club include appealing to smaller shareholders or approaching old-Arsenal family shareholder Lady Bracewell-Smith, who owns 15 per cent and is understood to be considering selling some or all of her stake.