On Tuesday, The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust voted not to sell its shares to prospective new owner, Stan Kroenke, who had tabled a mandatory offer for full control of the club. The Trust voted unanimously to reject the offer, which values each share at £11,750, preferring to retain its stake in the club and claimed: “Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one man.” The American now controls 62% of the shares in the north London club, and despite the Arsenal Board recommending all stakeholders to relinquish their shares, the Supporters’ Trust revealed an intention to “work with Stan Kroenke to keep Arsenal supporters involved in the club’s ownership structure.”
The Trust is clearly not completely opposed to Kroenke’s takeover, but do intend to retain a level of fan involvement in Arsenal’s ownership. But surely the most important question all Gunners fans should be pondering is what direction Kroenke intends to take Arsenal, and whether the American is the right man to provide a clear vision for the club’s development.
Kroenke is reportedly worth £1.77billion (FORBES 2010) and made his substantial fortune mainly through real estate and constructing shopping centres, retail, business and residential developments. He has retained his discretion since he began building his stake in Arsenal in 2007 and revealed very little in a Stock Exchange announcement yesterday, instead waiting to disclose more details in a full offer document to be sent to all shareholders in the coming weeks.
One interesting point already made by Kroenke is his recognition of “the self-sustaining model which is currently followed being the most effective way to ensure the longevity of Arsenal, whilst maintaining its unique history and traditions.” This would indicate that, despite reports suggesting otherwise, he doesn’t intend to hand Arsene Wenger an expansive account for signing new talent and instead wishes to sustain the club in its healthy position.
Kroenke’s long-term strategy at Arsenal remains uncertain but his history in business and sport suggests he may look to increase revenues through media ventures. He currently owns Altitude Sports and Entertainment, an American television network which broadcasts every Colorado Rapids (MLS), Denver Nuggets (NBA) and Colorado Avalanche (NHL) game to its reported 3.3 million subscribers. Kroenke controls all three of these teams and could possibly look to promote Arsenal through this avenue.
The Pepsi Centre, which hosts Avalanche and Rapids’ home games, also stages music and entertainment events, but Kroenke will struggle to implement a similar scheme for increasing revenue at the Emirates due to the planning permission on the stadium which approves only a limited number of non-footballing events to be staged there each year.
Arsenal’s sponsorship revenue is markedly lower than most of their Premier League rivals, largely due to the long-term deals secured at the time of the stadium move which afforded the club a short-term opportunity to cover their debts, and it is likely that Kroenke will be eager to seek a better way to financially improve Arsenal through this route.
Arsenal legend, Martin Keown recently gave his thoughts on a potential takeover, stating: “Stan Kroenke is an expert buyer of sports businesses and we have to see that only the future will tell us really whether or not Arsenal made the right decision.” I don’t think Arsenal fans have anything to fear of the American just yet, and needn’t bother comparing the Missouri-born businessman to the Glazers or George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Keown has pretty much summarised the situation, because no-one quite knows Kroenke’s plans for Arsenal and only time will tell if his appointment is to the Gunners’ benefit.