Arsenal fan group plan 'symbolic' veto of Stan Kroenke's purchase offer
The Arsenal Supporters Trust is planning to reject Stan Kroenke's mandatory offer for their shares in a last show of defiance against the American billionaire although they have no hopes of legally challenging the takeover.
Kroenke is set to take single ownership of Arsenal after minority shareholder Alisher Usmanov agreed to sell his 30 percent stake in the club earlier this month.
That deal means Kroenke can force the remaining shareholders to sell their combined 3 percent stake as well, but the AST -- the leading Arsenal fan group -- will not give up their six shares willingly.
"By accepting the offer you actively say, 'Yes, we're willing to sell to you.' That's not what we want to do. It's highly likely we just ignore it," AST spokesman Nigel Phillips told ESPN FC. "It's a futile gesture, because it makes no difference. But tendering your shares to the owner is just like saying, 'Here you are, you can have it.' I think we would all feel marginally better if we said, 'No, you can't have our shares.'"
Phillips said Kroenke served all shareholders a compulsory purchase notice this week that outlined the conditions of the offer. The letter gives individual shareholders six weeks to accept the bid of slightly over £29,000 per share.
Those who accept can get paid within three days, whereas the money for those who refuse will be paid into a trust administered by Arsenal and distributed to the shareholders in a process that could take months, Phillips said.
"There's no difference in money, it's just the time and the process," Phillips said. "But there's no rush to get the money. There's no risk we won't get the money. It's just a symbolic gesture."
The AST held a call with shareholders on Monday, with most of them also planning to reject the offer, Phillips said. The supporters group has around 1,000 members, about 100 of which own shares in the club.
"They all feel very much the same," Phillips said. "There are people who had shares in their family for more than 100 years, and they're just being forcibly ripped away from them."
The AST has been seeking legal advice to see if there was any way to challenge the takeover, if only to postpone it long enough to force Arsenal to hold a final annual general meeting (AGM) -- a requirement that will disappear under private ownership.
But Phillips said there does not appear to be anything they can do to delay matters.
"Kroenke is doing everything by the book; he's got the law on his side," he said. "It appears a bit futile, but it's sort of like a last stand."
The AST has used the meeting as a way of posing questions to the board and challenging the club on issues related to performances both on and off the pitch, but that ability to voice concerns will now disappear.
"We will have no legal right to be able to present information to the club. As shareholders, you attend the AGM and you can ask questions and expect answers," Phillips said. "Now we're no different to any other man in the street. We will continue to highlight what's going on, but we will have considerably less information."
Meanwhile, Arsenal are set to send Krystian Bielik on loan to Charlton Athletic this season, sources have told ESPN FC. Bielik, 20, was sent on loan to Walsall in January after recovering from a shoulder injury.
ESPN FC transfer correspondent Peter O'Rourke contributed to this report.