Sunday, April 22, 2007
'All that glisters is not gold': the great Arsenal takeover mystery
Quite a week, eh?
David Dein, Our most prominent board member, and Arsene's best mate (Trademark), is sacked from the board, prompting mass hysteria and suggestions that the club is on the verge of a takeover.
Peter 'legend' Hill-Wood, says that he will not allow the club to be sold 'across the Atlantic' to those who know 'sweet FA' about 'our' football.
Stan Kroenke buys more shares in the club, and sends a letter out to the Arsenal Supporters Trust, undoubtedly as a precursor to an attempt to buy the 10% or so of shares that small-shareholders control. His stake now lies at just over 12%, with the sale of Dein's 14% stake to Kroenke being just a matter of time.
Arsene is forced to publicly state that he will honour his contract, while remaining cagey on his long-term future. However, his statements about 'his decision' in appointing a sporting director seem to imply he will renew his deal in 2008. Arsene also, contradicting earlier comments, comes out in favour of a takeover.
Phew. So much for us being the 'stable' club of English football.
Whilst I have previously come out in favour of a takeover, now, I have to admit, I'm sharing PHW's views. Is a transfer kitty enough to justify the sale of our club's history and its values? 'All that glisters is not gold', after all.
Of course, many would claim we have already sold out, playing in our 'Emirates' stadium. But a bit of advertising is not the same as a full sale of the club, and it would be disingenuous to compare the two.
Would Arsene even use a transfer budget if presented with it? Our biggest signings in recent years have largely been failures: Reyes and Wiltord. Only Henry has justified his +£10m price tag. Would the ability to buy a few nice trinkets really be worth a takeover? Isn't Arsene's youth policy actually quite a proud and respectable way to go about business?
And what of Kroenke, or 'silent' Stan as he's known? Is he another Glazer? He certainly seems to be at the moment, with his calvacade of US sports clubs and quiet public persona. Has he got the stomach to launch a messy hostile takeover, and what would it say about him if he did? If he and Dein were in cahoots, and secretly plotting behind the board's back, do we really want his sort? Do we really want Dein back if he's willing to act in this way? And how is Kroenke planning to finance the takeover? By taking on debt? Do we want a Glazer situation of a highly-leveraged buy-out on top of large stadium debts? How would that actually benefit the club?
I would suggest it would not, and certainly not in the way many fans hope a takeover would benefit us; but I think a takeover, or at least a serious takeover attempt, will occur. For all the talk of the board resisting a bid, and refusing to sell for twelve months, Kroenke can still push up his stake in the club to a level were a takeover would be necessary for the health of the club. If Kroenke gets to 40%+ shares, the board will sell, even if it is in a year's time.
Of course a takeover can still be resisted, but I wonder if the board really have the stomach for a fight in the long-term. It's sad to contemplate, but maybe our club is just another potential money-spinner for a rich individual, who knows nothing of football apart from its money-making potential.
So I'm with PHW. Call me a little Englander, or someone blind to the contemporary nature of football, but I want my club to be run by people who genuinely care about it. Who care about it on a level higher than money. People, like me, who would pay to come and watch the game if they weren't a shareholder. Call me a cynic, but you are not one of these people Mr Kroenke, and I'm not sure if I want you near my team.