Mon, Mar 04, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Spokesman denies consortium plans to make Gunners bid

Reuters, LONDON

Stan Kroenke has no plans to sell his majority stake in Arsenal, a spokesman for the Premier League club said yesterday, responding to a report that a Middle East consortium planned a £1.5 billion (US$2.25 billion) bid.

The Sunday Telegraph said the consortium, backed by funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had already requested a meeting with US billionaire Kroenke, who owns a two-thirds stake in the north London club ahead of what would be a record takeover bid for a soccer club.

“Stan Kroenke is committed to Arsenal for the long term and has no intention of selling his stake,” Arsenal communications director Mark Gonnella said. “There has been no contact from any potential investors.”

Gonnella noted that Kroenke, who also owns the St Louis Rams in the NFL, had never sold any of his sports investments.

Many Arsenal fans are unhappy with the way Kroenke is running the club, arguing he is putting profit before success on the pitch.

Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005 and face another barren season. Supporters are angry at paying the highest ticket prices in the country and criticize Kroenke for selling players.

Chelsea, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Manchester City, supported by cash from Abu Dhabi, have spent heavily in recent seasons and outperformed Arsenal.

The consortium, whose members have not yet been named, would make available transfer funds “to transform the club into a major force in European and world football,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed source familiar with the plan as saying.

“The bid team regard Arsenal as one of the great clubs of European football, but also one that is no longer punching its weight and is in danger of falling behind,” it said.

The newspaper added that the consortium would pledge to reduce ticket prices at the Emirates and aim to recreate there some of the atmosphere of Highbury, Arsenal’s historic former stadium.

However, new financial curbs being introduced in the Premier League and for top European clubs will make it harder for wealthy owners to run up big losses chasing sporting success.

Arsenal say their sound finances will make them more competitive in this era of “Financial Fair Play.” Kroenke acquired a majority stake in Arsenal two years ago in a deal valuing the club at £731 million.

Arsenal’s other main shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, has a stake of almost 30 percent, but does not sit on the board and criticized the club for allowing Robin van Persie to join Manchester United last year.

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