Guardian, Tuesday, December 23, 2008 12:45 PM
Controversial Russian-Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov
has said that he has no current plans to increase his stake in Arsenal FC, despite the ousting from the club's board last week
of Nina Bracewell-Smith
, who owns a 15.9 percent stake in the team. But he is certainly reviewing the situation, and refuses to rule out a future move.
Red & White Holdings owns a 24.9 percent stake in Arsenal, said that his London-based partner, Farhad Moshiri
, was in talks at Arsenal to investigate "sharp changes" at the club.
"What has happened in the last year poses questions," Usmanov said. "When in the space of a year four members of the board of directors are sacked, when the general director whom everybody had praised
is changed, we consider that to be a huge matter -- just to sack a major shareholder [Bracewell-Smith] without explanation. Mr. Moshiri is now in London and is trying to find out the reasons for these
sharp changes and according to what explanation we get, we will decide our strategy."
The billionaire said he has "not held any negotiations" with Bracewell-Smith about a purchase of
her stake. "I haven't seen her and so far she has not announced that she wants to sell. There is no point in discussing something that doesn't exist." Asked if he would like to buy more shares,
Usmanov said he was "unlikely to at the moment because I have more important financial matters to deal with. But we have never concealed that we would like to acquire a blocking stake of up to 29.9
percent and nothing prevents us doing that. That's what interests us and, little by little, without hurrying, we are buying up shares from the market."
He could also not rule out
attempting to acquire another large stake. "No businessman can say that," he said. "What if after two or three years I'm offered something at a good price? But at the moment I don't want to buy [a
large stake], I don't have the means. Nobody has at the moment." He is also disappointed to have been portrayed as a threat to the club. "We have always supported the board of directors and we haven't
had an antagonistic attitude towards anyone, so we don't understand why we've been assigned the role of a hostile party."
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