American businessman Stan Kroenke kept Arsenal’s shareholders in the dark Thursday about whether he plans to mount a takeover of the Premier League club.
Kroenke has been steadily increasing his stake in Arsenal, with his latest acquisition of shares taking him to 28.9 percent – nearing the 29.9 percent threshold after which he would have to launch a buyout.
Article continues below ...
Prem’s Foreign Owners
But Arsenal’s largest shareholder stayed silent at the annual general meeting when challenged about his intentions for the club.
“I believe he is very happy as a long-term shareholder in Arsenal,” chairman Peter Hill-Wood responded, citing legal problems if Kroenke had answered the question.
The Denver-based businessman also owns Major League Soccer side the Colorado Rapids, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.
“Really it’s not for me to say what his intentions are,” Hill-Wood said, with Kroenke sitting to his right on the top table at Emirates Stadium. “I don’t think we are looking for a change in custodian. I think you will find the club is in pretty good hands.”
The second largest shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, owns 25 percent of the club but isn’t on the board and wasn’t at the AGM.
In the past, Usmanov has questioned the lack of funds available to strengthen the squad.
But Hill-Wood insisted Thursday there was no need to issue new shares to provide manager Arsene Wenger with the cash to embark on “reckless” spending sprees.
In fact, Wenger defended his frugal approach to spending at the AGM and insisted that his team’s five-year wait for a trophy would end this season.
“It’s not just about pumping money into the team,” Wenger said. “There is something more magical in our sport and that magic is creating and developing players.”
The Frenchman, who became Arsenal’s longest-serving manager earlier this month, told shareholders that his philosophy would be vindicated when the European Union imposes stricter financial controls.
“The Premier League is the most attractive league in the world,” Wenger said. “What is happening is that many investors from all over the world come in with investment. That is one trend, the second trend is that the European Union want to control exactly the money that comes in and get unlimited spending out of the game.
“I believe the second will happen and we are in line with that. So to keep the club strong, that is personally essential.”
To mark Wenger’s 60th birthday Thursday, the AGM celebrated his haul of three Premier League titles and four FA Cups since taking charge in 1996.
“I know that we haven’t won a trophy for four years (since the 2005 FA Cup) but we were very close and I believe that this year the team will do it,” Wenger said. “When I say that, it is not to please you, it is because I am really convinced of it.”
Arsenal is fourth in the Premier League, four points adrift of leader Manchester United with a game in hand, and is also competing in the lucrative Champions League.
“We are in October and we know it will be very tight – it will be how resilient, consistent, intelligent and united we are until the end,” Wenger said. “There will be periods when it will be difficult but we have to show our strengths that has always made this club special.
“I believe we have developed the team in the last four of five years with a tremendous amount of training to develop them how we want. I believe a team is easier to develop if they are grown up inside the club, from 16 even younger because they learn to love the club and what it represents.”