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Apr 16, 2010

Hill-Wood plays down Arsenal takeover talk

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has told Soccernet that he does not anticipate a near £1 billion takeover bid for Arsenal - and says he wouldn't be worried even if it did happen.

Hill-Wood became the first member of the Gunners board to comment on the widespread takeover speculation this week, arising from the disclosure that Lady Nina Bracewell Smith has put her near 16% share block up for sale, valuing Arsenal at close to £1 billion.

The revelation has created takeover fever around Emirates Stadium, with reports suggesting biggest stakeholders 'Silent' Stan Kroenke or Alisher Usmanov could mount a takeover bid.

But Hill-Wood told Soccernet: "No, I do not anticipate a takeover bid, not at all. The situation has not created any uncertainty either, the board are very relaxed about it all. I haven't spoken to Stan Kroenke or anyone else for that matter, as there is no need to do so.

"The potential sale of a minority stake is unlikely to trigger a takeover in my opinion. I don't see either of the two main shareholders mounting a takeover at present, and I just don't see why anyone would want to spend a fortune on a minority stake.

"However the soundings, the noises from Stan Kroenke - not that Stan makes much noise - is that he is happy with where he is at the moment, and I don't see Usmanov mounting a hostile takeover bid either."

Billionaire Russian oligarch Usmanov uses Red & White Holdings as an investment vehicle, and was widely reported to own a 26.29% stake in the Gunners, although he has recently acquired another 37 shares to take his stake up to 26.31%.

In a non-committal statement, Red & White said they remained "a committed long-term investor in Arsenal'' which "retains all its options'' and stressed that "no particular course of action is ruled in or out''.

US billionaire Kroenke has a 29.98% stake in the club, just 10 shares short of the statutory ceiling at which he would be compelled to make a full-scale takeover bid.

Kroenke, though, is busy launching a bid for full control of the American football team the St Louis Rams. Kroenke owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids.

He didn't need Lady Bracewell-Smith to formerly put her shares up for sale, in order to launch a takeover of Arsenal, but Kroenke does, according to Hill-Wood, feel her £10,000-a-share valuation is far too high.

Hill-Wood added: "I don't understand all the fuss. It is a silly price for the shares, and it would be a massive outlay to try to buy the club. But if there was a bid for the club then it would be the decision of the shareholders whether to accept it, and again there is no certainty that that will happen.

"People have jumped in and bought football clubs at silly prices, and regretted it. All we can do as a football club is to continue as we are, trying to run it for the benefit of the football club."

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