By Nick Harris
18 August 2010
A new scheme that encourages Arsenal fans to buy a stake in the club in return for influence in decisions makes the prospect of a takeover by any of Arsenal’s current major shareholders unlikely for the foreseeable future.
The Arsenal Fanshare plan will allow supporters to buy a stake as small as 1/100th of a share in the club, costing £100. There are 62,217 shares in circulation with a current market value of around £10,500 each. Owning even a single share is beyond the reach of many ordinary Arsenal fans, hence the AF movement, organised by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust.
Arsenal have been subject to on-and-off rumours of a takeover for several years as a variety of stakeholders and suitors have jostled for control, or effective control, either through their stake or via boardroom alliances. The US billionaire Stan Kroenke is the club’s biggest single shareholder with a few shares shy of 30 per cent of the club. The Uzbek tycoon, Alisher Usmanov, owns just over 26 per cent through his Red and White Securities vehicle. Danny Fiszman owns 16.11 per cent, while Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith owns 15.9 per cent, a holding currently on the market but without takers to date.
The most significant element of the launch of Arsenal Fanshare is it has the public backing of those four major shareholders, the importance of which cannot be understated. By giving the scheme their backing, they are all giving public support to plurality of ownership, making the chances of a takeover bid by either Kroenke or Usmanov (the only two viable prospects) less likely in the short to medium term.
Arsenal Fanshare will source shares for interested parties on the open market, at least to begin with. Should demand outstrip supply then it is plausible that Lady Nina would make some of her holding available for sale to fans; indeed sportingintelligence understands Lady Nina has indicated this is the case.
The chance of a fan-led buyout of the club is remote. While there are 40,000 (relatively well-heeled) season ticket holders and 180,000 members at the club, it would still require more than 60,000 people to pay more than £10,000 each to buy all the shares, which would be unlikely even if all the shares were up for sale (and most of them are not).
But the scheme does highlight the trend towards greater levels of fan involvement in the ownership and running of clubs, and according to AST spokesman Tim Payton the scheme “has been established to increase supporter ownership and representation. We urge all Arsenal fans to take this opportunity and get involved – by working together we can make Arsenal even stronger.”
The AF website was swamped with 4,000 attempted views per minute this morning, causing it to crash.
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