So who is it who’s buying up Arsenal shares at the moment? And when will the Board, the Bracewell-Smith family and Red & White Holdings come out and articulate their vision for our beloved Arsenal?
My esteemed colleague Fabregas_the_King in his blog two weeks ago raised a number of pertinent questions an invited the board to address them. He also quoted from two blogs he wrote in May and September last year. One said baldly that he and a lot of other Gooners were fed up with being taken for fools by the board.
In my words, not his, he was fed up with Gooners being treated by our board as mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed a load of pooh). The other raised serious questions about the Highbury Square property development.
The blog on Highbury Square was written as the world financial system was starting to crash down around our ears. Nobody knows where the financial and banking crisis will lead. We’re in uncharted waters. Not since 1930s has the planet seen such panic in the financial and stock markets. What is certain is that the residential property market is in a nose-dive. Most commentators say house prices have a good way further to fall before he market hits bottom. This clearly isn’t going to help sell the flats at our beloved old home.
Just before Christmas, the disconcerting news came through that Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith had resigned from the board and long-standing director Richard Carr, a member of the Bracewell-Smith family, had also been kicked downstairs from the holding company board to the football club board.
There’s been endless speculation about what these moves are all about. What is absolutely clear is that Lady Nina was drop-kicked out of the boardroom rather than leaving of her own accord.
Since Alisher Usmanov set up Red & White Holdings and bought David Dein’s 8,952 (14.4%) shareholding he’s bought more shares in the market. Red & White held 14,411 (24%) at its last public declaration. It’s generally assumed that he’s been the buyer of the majority of shares traded in the market since the last announcement.
Market rules require any shareholder with more than three percent to notify the club who in turn must notify the market of any change in their shareholding up or down by one percent. Red & White’s last notification was in February 2008.
Directors have to notify any change in their shareholding, no matter how small. On 29 December 2008 Stan Kroenke made a market notification that he had bought an additional seventeen shares (worth around £128,350 at the current market price). Shares have been moving faster on the PLUS market than the usual glacial pace.
Unless another person or company has added themselves to the Chairman Peter Hill-Wood said, in the aftermath of Lady Nina’s departure, that, “A number of the Board have indicated in the past that they are interested in buying more shares so the future stability of the Club is secure.” Stan Kroenke is clearly interested in acquiring at least some more shares. So who might the other member of the board be who fancy buying a few more shares? There are only two big shareholders on the board now, Danny Fiszman and Stan Kroenke. Why would Danny Fiszman be wanting to buy having so recently sold shares? Critically, Fiszman’s sale of 659 of his shares took his holding below 25%. With a quarter or more of the shares he was able to block changes to the Arsenal share structure and financing on his own. No longer.
Here’s the current scorecard of who owns Arsenal’s 62,217 issued shares:
BOARD: NUMBER OF SHARES %
Danny Fiszman – 15,000 24.11
Stan Kroenke – 7,714 12.40
Peter Hill-Wood – 500 00.80
Lord Philip Harris of Peckham – 53 00.08
Ken Friar OBE – 47 00.07
Sir “Chips” Keswick – 40 00.06
Ivan Gazidis – 0 00.00
TOTAL 23,354 37.53
BIG HOLDINGS OUTSIDE THE BOARD
Red & White Holdings – 14,948   ; 24.02
Lady Nina-Bracewell-Smith – 9,893 15.90
Richard Carr – 2,722 4.37
Lady Sarah Phipps-Bagge – 1,244 2.00
TOTAL: 28,807 46.30
SMALL SHAREHOLDERS & ARSENAL SUPPORTERS’ TRUST – 10,056 16.16
(inc “orphan” shares)
You don’t have to be good at hard sums to realise that the board can no longer control the club on its own. It needs the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust and small shareholders to vote with them if the Bracewell-Smith family and Red & White were to work together.
I’ll repeat the same call I made to all the current big shareholders in a blog in December last year. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s one absolutely sure way of ensuring that the club we all love has the future we all want for it. Pledge your shares to the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust. You’d become an instant hero in the Arsenal pantheon. You’d be following Arsenal’s proud history of innovation.
We’ve been at the cutting edge since we became the first southern club do join the Football League in 1893, in the face of bitter opposition from the London FA; to the move from Woolwich over the Thames to Highbury; the Herbert Chapman years and the construction of the best appointed club ground in these islands in the 1930s and constant innovation on and off the field; to being the first top-flight club to seriously consider appointing a foreign manager (Miljan Miljani?) in 1976, fourteen years before Aston Villa appointed the Slovak Dr Jozef Vengloš; on to the “Great Leap Forward” of Arsčne Wenger’s first decade.
I’m not naive. I understand neither Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov have followed the new wave of overseas investors into British football because they’re life- long Gooners. It would however be a gesture of the most extraordinary vision. It doesn’t stop me from raising the possibility. If you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win a prize.
Whilst they’re mulling over that idea, I’d like them to think about the following questions:
1) What is your vision for Arsenal and your concrete ideas to advance the club on and off the field?
2) What plans do you have for recruiting the next generation of Arsenal directors?
3) What is your view on future ownership structure and corporate governance of our great club?
I know that Arsenal Supporters’ Trust plans to meet in the near future with the board and all the big shareholders. I hope they (the shareholders that is) won’t be insulted if I address them all very directly. As my colleague Fabregas_the_King said in his recent blog, Arsenal supporters want and deserve to be treated like intelligent adults. Enough of the nebulous warm words.
I want the future ownership and corporate governance of my club secure and stable. I agree with AST that plurality of ownership and a sense of custodianship have been great historic strengths at Arsenal. A future Arsenal supporter born today could well live to see in the 22nd century. I want to know that the club will still be there, still rooted in the values that have made it such an iconic British and international sporting institution, true to its history and values, still on the cutting edge of football innovation.
Are we in agreement, ladies and gentleman? You hold the future of the club in your hands. Good. Let’s talk. Seriously.
Meanwhile to all you Arsenal insiders, if you haven’t done it already, go to AST’s website and join the Trust TODAY
You’ll be getting yourself a voice with club and your own thin slice of Arsenal Heaven as all AST members are mutual owners of the shares owned by them. They really are top, top people and do a bloody good job for all us Gooners. They deserve our support and the few quid it costs to join (well less than the cheapest match-ticket at the Grove for a year’s subscription.
To finish on a less serious note I’m still enjoying the schadenfreude of Kaká knocking back Citeh, and Robinho “doing one” from their training camp in Tenerife. I knew it was only a matter of time before Robinho volleyed the toys out of the pram. He’s detested by a lot of fans in Brazil as a spoilt dummy-spitter, gifted player that he undoubtedly is, when he can arsed. I thought his tantrums in Spain demanding that Real Madrid sell him to his choice of club demonstrat ed what an immature, spoilt brat he is. He also caused boat-loads of grief at Santos before he came to Europe too.
My biggest laugh of the day though was for a story I saw that Big Fat Sam is apparently quoting a fee of £40 million for Roque Santa Cruz. I knew there was a sense of humour under that bluff Black Country exterior! I’m an admirer of the big Paraguayan. I remember him having a great game for Bayern Munich against us in the Champions League a couple of seasons ago. He’s done well at Ewood Park since he arrived here too. But £40 million? Good grief! And I thought I had some brass neck.
That’s all for now my fellow Gooners.
Keep the faith!
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