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Apr 11, 2011

Kroenke on verge of Arsenal takeover

US businessman Stan Kroenke has confirmed he has increased his stake in Arsenal to 62.89% and will now make a mandatory offer to acquire the remaining shares in the Premier League club.

• Would a takeover be good for Arsenal?

Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), which has gradually built its stake in the Gunners since first buying 9.9% of shares in 2007, has bought out major shareholders Danny Fiszman (16.1%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9%) and agreed terms for the purchase of the remaining stock, which values the club at £731 million.

Kroenke said in a statement to the Stock Exchange: "We are excited about the opportunity to increase our involvement with and commitment to Arsenal.

"Arsenal is a fantastic club with a special history and tradition and a wonderful manager in Arsene Wenger. We intend to build on this rich heritage and take the club to new success. I am delighted that Peter Hill-Wood has agreed to support us by continuing as chairman.

"We especially wish to acknowledge and thank the board, Danny Fiszman and the Fiszman family as well as Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and her family for the confidence they have had in me over the past years and in allowing us to move forward in this more prominent role.''

Under UK takeover laws, once a shareholder passes the threshold of 29.99% they must launch a formal bid for the rest of the shares in the club. KSE is obliged to offer the market rate and has agreed terms to offer £11,750 a share.

Kroenke's main focus will now be on purchasing the stake of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who does not have a seat on the board but controls 27% of the club's holding company and has been linked with a takeover of the club in the past.

Arsenal's independent directors - Hill-Wood, Ivan Gazidis, Ken Friar, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham - are recommending that shareholders accept Kroenke's offer.

Arsenal boss Wenger welcomed the news of KSE's deal and said: "I have worked with Stan Kroenke at board meetings over the past couple of years and I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart.

"He understands the club's heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the club in a way which protects our long-term future.''

Arsenal chairman Hill-Wood, who initially said the Gunners did not want Kroenke's "sort'' involved at the club when KSE bought their initial stake four years ago, added: "The board of directors and I consider it a key responsibility to protect the ethos and spirit of the club.

"Mr Kroenke, although relatively new to Arsenal, has shown himself to be a man who values and respects the history and traditions of this very special club that we cherish. We are confident that he will be a safe custodian of its future.

"At this time of transition I would like to pay particular tribute to Danny Fiszman for his immense contribution. Danny's vision and drive led the relocation to our new stadium, an historic move which will benefit the club and its many passionate fans long into the future.

"I would like to pay tribute to the important and long-standing role that the Bracewell-Smith family have played in Arsenal's history. The family have been staunch supporters of the club for over 70 years and the club is significantly indebted to them for the role that they have played in its development and success. We will be considering appropriate ways to mark this long and valued contribution.''

KSE already own NBA basketball franchise the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche NHL ice hockey team and Major League Soccer side the Colorado Rapids.

The Arsenal Supporters' Trust (AST), who have good relations with Kroenke, have given a cautiously optimistic welcome to the takeover.

"AST thinks it is really important that supporters remain involved in Arsenal's ownership structure," AST said in a statement. "Stan Kroenke has a good relationship with the AST and recently supported our fanshare scheme.

"We are hopeful of having discussions with him to discuss how our members and Arsenal supporters can keep their shares in Arsenal Football Club.''

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