I have been following the Kroenke march towards 30 per cent but had refrained from commenting on it. The main reason for that was a lack of clarity. I was hoping this will be discussed in detail in the media. Unfortunately, I guess no one else seems to have similar doubts as mine. So I thought it’s better to write what I don’t understand rather than waiting for the clarifications.
What does a takeover bid mean? The way everyone talks about it, I get the impression that present shareholders would be forced into selling their shares to Silent Stan. If that is not the case and if the present board and other shareholders are happy to hold on to their shares, it would not matter if Kroenke reached 30%. He would make an offer and the others could reject it.
On the other hand, if the others were forced to sell their shares, one would have expected Usmanov to have shown some urgency of his own. He certainly wouldn’t want to be forced into a situation where he is cornered into selling his stake. His lack of response points to the fact that Usmanov might have a choice when it comes to selling his shares.
It would also mean that all the shareholders will have a choice. From a logical point of view, forcing people to sell their shares does not make sense. So let me assume for a moment that each shareholder will have a decision to make, to sell or not to sell.
If people have a choice and the board members decide to keep bulk of their shares and so does Usmanov, Kroenke will fall short of the majority. I have no idea what would happen after that. Would he be obliged to make a second bid or do we just go on with life as usual?
If Usmanov is not forced into selling his shares, we might see the whole charade again at a later stage when he reaches 30 per cent. Even if Stan makes a successful takeover right now, it is hardly likely that he will own over 70 per cent shares. In other words the American would not be in a position to pre-empt the fat Uzbek.
On the other hand, if the board members and other shareholders are willing to sell their shares to the American, it makes me wonder about the slow progress. It might be due to the requirement of a large cash balance that Kroenke would have to show before he makes his bid. One thing is for sure, if he bids and people want to sell, then he has to buy.
The bottom line is I have no clue about what is going on and what is going to happen. I guess you can see why I haven’t written anything on this situation so far!
There is a different angle to this story which concerns foreign ownership. Many fans are against foreigners owning their clubs. I am not sure I fully agree with that. If we look at Portsmouth, for example, they are in deep trouble and they got into a mess before the foreigners came in. There are many other examples of local ownership taking a club down.
I think this situation is very similar to football itself. How can passports decide what is right or wrong. The owner should be in sync with the principles of the club and should have a sound understanding of business backed by a long term interest in the club. If these conditions are met, why should the nationality of the owner matter?
It is easy to generalize that the foreigners won’t understand the philosophy of the club. But so many foreign fans are perfectly capable of feeling a connection with the club. Why can’t one of those fans be rich enough to actually buy it and help improve the club he loves?
There is an argument here that most people who buy the club are not fans but businessmen interested in making a quick return. One would expect the present owners to do their due diligence in this regard. After all they have run the club for a long time and feel the same passion as the fans.
Leveraged buyouts can become difficult but they are like any other business transaction. If the present board put enough thought and effort into it, they can analyze the plans of the foreigner to see the worst case situations. It is certainly not fair to put all the blame on the new owners for the problems at any club.
Amidst all this confusion, one scribe asked a brilliant question to Arsene yesterday. He asked if Le Boss held any shares of the club. Wenger denied having any shares, but on further probing confessed that he had thought about it. The reporter pressed him for a reason for not buying any shares and here is what our manager said
Because I felt always that I try to do the job with a good work ethic and not to be accused of any decision being of my personal interest. I thought always it’s healthier not to be involved in it at all. So I cannot be accused that whatever decision I make looks after my own interest.
Just imagine the situation if Arsene did have some shares. If he then sold players to Citeh and didn’t use the funds to buy new players, you can easily imagine the ruckus some people would have created. I think it was an extremely wise decision by Wenger to stay away from the shares. Although, I do hope that in the future, after he retires, he does take up some stock and remains involved with the Arsenal.
Well, at least some people have complete clarity of thought. I wish I could borrow some of that.