Uzbek billionaire Usmanov actively seeking buyer for 30.4 per cent stake in club, which Kronke could add to the two-thirds of shares he already owns
Stan Kroenke could be set to take full control of Arsenal after Alisher Usmanov began actively looking to sell his 30.4 per cent stake in the club.
The American owner, hugely unpopular with fans since his 2011 takeover, currently owns 67 per cent of shares, and Usmanov has finally admitted defeat as he recognises Kroenke will never let him control the club.
Kroenke, a Missouri-born real estate entrepreneur and nicknamed ‘Silent Stan’ by Arsenal fans for his avoidance of public appearances, offered Usmanov £525million for his block of shares in October 2017, after the Uzbek made his own £1bn offer last May.
Nine months after rejecting Kroenke’s offer, the Financial Times report that the Uzbek has now decided to sell up as he concedes Kroenke will never allow him to control Arsenal.
Should Kroenke purchase the shares, he would likely go on to buy up the remaining 2.6 per cent of shares as well, giving him full ownership of the club.
It is a move which has outraged the club’s fans.
An Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) spokesman told the Evening Standard: “The AST would be very concerned at any outcome that saw the club wholly owned by Stan Kroenke.
“If he bought Alisher Usmanov‘s shares, the likelihood is he would take the club private, forcing out the remaining custodian shareholders.
“This would reduce scrutiny in how Arsenal operate and allow its corporate structure to be moved to the United States.
“It would not be good for those who care about Arsenal being run the right way.
“Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person and there should be a plurality of ownership, including supporters, involved in the club.
“There would be concern at the idea that Stan Kroenke has absolute control of Arsenal Football Club and the likelihood that its legal status would be transferred to the United States.
“The AST believe that Usmanov’s holding is important for maintaining plurality and have always called for the board to work with Usmanov to make Arsenal stronger.
“Stan Kroenke’s refusal to engage with supporters, including breaking a pledge he made at the time of his takeover, demonstrates why this would alarm all Arsenal fans who care how the club is run.”
Kroenke, who also owns six sports franchises in his homeland, first became a shareholder at Arsenal in 2007 and joined the board of directors a year later when his stake grew to 29 per cent.
His 2011 takeover gave him 62.9 per cent of voting rights at the club as he bought the shares held by Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and the late Danny Fiszman.
In addition to Arsenal, his firm Kroenke Sports & Entertainment also have a controlling stake in the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), the Colorado Rapids (MLS), the Denver Nuggets (NBA) and the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), as well as lacrosse team the Colorado Mammoth.
Forbes estimate Kroenke’s net worth to be $8.3bn (£6.3bn), making him the 183rd-richest person in the world, while Usmanov is valued at $12.7bn (£9.7bn), placing him 118th.
His son Josh is gaining a growing influence at Arsenal, and was said to have been instrumental in the club’s recent governance changes, which included the departure of Arsene Wenger as manager after 22 years at the club.
Father Stan is a very infrequent visitor to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, instead spending the vast majority of his year in the US where he was ranked as the country’s ninth-biggest landowner in 2015.
This absence from British soil has riled Gunners fans in the past, as has his reluctance to give interviews or answer questions at the club’s Annual General Meetings, which he does usually attend.
He also drew criticism in August last year for launching a new sports TV channel which includes shows that involve big game hunting, with elephants and lions being killed in the making of programmes, which he then ordered to be removed from the channel.