Stan Kroenke, the billionaire owner of both the Colorado Rapids and the Denver Nuggets, is "in advanced talks" with English Premier League giant Arsenal that would put him in a strong position for a future takeover of the team, writes Nick Harris. Kroenke, who currently owns 12 per cent of the London club's shares, "will take a place on the club's board within weeks. Crucially, he will also be given first refusal on a majority of the club's shares for the next four years."
The American will not own a controlling stake in the team just yet because the group of core directors, headed by Danny Fiszman (24.1 per cent owner) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9 per cent), are still not ready to sell out their shares. Harris says that Arsenal first tried to persuade Kroenke to accept a seat on the board last fall, "to send a strong message to the Uzbek predator, Alisher Usmanov, that, given a choice of billionaire investors, they preferred Kroenke to Usmanov."
In other words, Kroenke would be the lesser of two evils, given Usmanov's past -- a six-year jail sentence in the Soviet Union he claims was for political reasons -- and media speculation about the business practices he used to acquire his vast wealth. Even then, Kroenke won't have forgotten that Arsenal's chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, looked down his nose at him last year and said: "Call me old-fashioned, but we don't need his money and we don't want his sort... [Americans] know absolutely sweet FA about our football." Relations between the board and Kroenke have, however, "since warmed."