Alisher Usmanov, the shady Uzbeki billionaire whose lawyers once threatened to sue this very site, has been steadily building his share in Arsenal in recent months. He has now creeped over 24%, and is just 5.8% short of the required 30% to launch a takeover bid. The board currently has a lockdown agreement preventing sale of their shares until April 2009, but with 18% of shares owned by small holders, there’s plenty of leverage Usmanov can keep buying up to pressure the board.
This has prompted Arsenal’s Managing Director, Keith Edelman, to again warn Usmanov off from a takeover attempt, though he accepted they may eventually have to invite him onto the board.
“[Usmanov’s share purchase] has no impact on the business because the Board is totally agreed to a lockdown, no selling of shares, so the Board as a total entity is the largest shareholder with 45 per cent. That makes us bullet-proof.
“There are many examples of clubs who have been taken over and are not having as smooth a ride as first hoped for.
“Arsène [Wenger] has always said a board where there is no conflict or tensions helps the team because they are not distracted. It is important we continue that, we want there to be calm waters.”
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust seems set to add their 3% share to the lockdown as well, with fans having been on the main opposed to Usmanov since news broke of his past, which included a six year prison stretch. F
ans of other teams Usmanov looked into buying, including their North London rivals Tottenham, should be glad they don’t have this grotesque bogeyman trying to muscle his way in.