ARSENAL majority shareholder Stan Kroenke was last night accused of plotting to reward himself with a dividend despite the club’s failure to end their trophy drought following a tempestuous AGM.
The American sports mogul, who spoke only three times on a rare visit to north London, refused to rule out issuing a dividend when pressed by shareholders disgruntled at high ticket prices and an estimated £70m unspent cash reserve.
Kroenke, who took his Arsenal shareholding to 67 per cent last year, insisted it was not his decision and cited his track record at US sports franchises including the Denver Nuggets basketball team.
“First of all there’s a tendency to direct these questions at me – this club is run through the board. I’ve always been respectful of that process,” said Kroenke.
“We’ve never put any debt on this club for acquisition, we’ve never in any meeting said money is not available to spend. We have a record of reinvestment and it’s there for everyone to see.”
Fans’ groups criticised Kroenke’s comments, which the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust said indicated he would look to issue a dividend.
“AST is totally against dividends being paid and money taken out of the club,” said AST spokesman Tim Payton. “It is of great concern that Kroenke clearly intends to do that.”
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis backed Kroenke at the meeting, in which board members were heckled over the club’s ticketing and transfer policies and the team’s failure to win a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
“Dividends are a board decision,” said Gazidis. “Look at the track record of the board, which has consistently reinvested funds back into the club.”