Arsenal move to block Usmanov
Arsenal's directors have extended the 'lockdown' to ward off a potential takeover – and are set to invite American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke to sign up to the agreement.
The move is a clear snub to Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire who controls Red & White Holdings which has a 23 per cent stake in the club, and cements Kroenke's favoured status with Arsenal. He was consulted on the lockdown while Usmanov wasn't.
An existing lockdown – preventing directors selling shares – was signed in April to last 12 months. But it was announced at the club's annual general meeting that a new agreement was in place that means shares can only be sold to "permitted persons" such as "close family" up to April 2009. Directors, who control 45 per cent, must give fellow board members first option until October 2012.
"Members of the board are committed long-term shareholders and to strengthen the current position they have entered into a new agreement," said chairman Peter Hill-Wood.
The original lockdown came after former vice-chairman David Dein – who now works for Usmanov – left because of "irreconcilable differences". Ironically Dein had wanted Kroenke to take control and the businessman has since acquired a 12.2 per cent stake in Arsenal.
Since the emergence of Usmanov, Arsenal have been more friendly towards Kroenke while he, in turn, has stressed his willingness to work with the present board. It has served to marginalise Usmanov, although he still intends to increase his stake and is continuing to buy up small pockets of shares. He has, however, retracted a demand for the club to pay a dividend and yesterday a spokesman said that Usmanov was "relaxed" about the extension to the lockdown agreement.
Arsenal have commissioned a bust of manager Arsène Wenger, which will be created by sculptor Etienne Millner.