Usmanov may go after dead Arsenal shareholders

Oct 13, 2011
Jonathan Harwood

Uzbek billionaire wants to up his stake in the Gunners to 30%, which would give him access to the accounts

ARSENAL'S second biggest shareholder, billionaire Alisher Usmanov, may target the families of dead Gunners shareholders in his bid to up his stake in the club to 30%.

The Uzbek oligarch has been frozen out by the board at Arsenal and refused a seat at the top table, despite owning more than 29% of the club. However, if he can increase his holding by 1% the situation will change. If and when he gets to that level he will have to pass the Premier League's owners and directors test. Assuming he does so, he will then automatically get access to the club's management accounts even though he is not a member of the board.

That would enable him to scrutinise the club's finances and put pressure on the board to spend more money or increase salaries. He is also in favour of a rights issue to try and raise a further £60m for the club. However, the current directors insist that the Gunners self-sustaining business model is the key to their long-term success.

Usmaov needs just 405 more shares to reach the 30% mark, and has this week written to minor shareholders offering more than £14,000 a share. That is a lot more than American Stan Kroenke paid when he bought a 66% stake in the club earlier this year.

The London Evening Standard even hints that Usmanov could target the families of dead shareholders to reach his target. It says: "Around 200 shareholders are thought to be deceased and the future of their investment is uncertain."

Although Usmanov has not been given access to the club's finances The Daily Telegraph has seen the figures. It reports that the Gunners have £160.2m in the bank, but only £50m of that is available for Arsene Wenger to spend on players and salaries.

The paper says Wenger is torn between using the money to boost salaries and improve contracts to prevent a repeat of the situation that saw Samir Nasri quit the club for a better deal at Manchester City, or use it to bring in new players in the January transfer window.

Players like Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Thomas Vermaelen are approaching the end of their contracts and need to negotiate new deals. However the club is also monitoring several big name players with a view to bolstering the midfield. Yoan Gourcuff, Yann M'Vila and Mario Gotze are all in the frame as potential signings.

The club will hold its AGM later this month when new owner Kroenke is expected to outline his plans for the club to fans and shareholders. The outcome of the meeting could determine whether investors turn to Usmanov and his demands for more lavish spending.

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