US sports tycoon Stanley Kroenke on Monday announced the takeover of Arsenal, making the London club the fifth Premiership side to come under American ownership, joining a rapidly-growing group comprising Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Sunderland.Arsenal’s bitter cross-town rivals, Tottenham, are also seen to be under American ownership since their English owner Joe Lewis operates from US and Bahamas shores. In all, with Arsenal’s takeover, the overall foreign-ownership (and co-owned ) graph of the 20-team Premiership rose to 50%.How long can the likes of Newcastle, Stoke City, Everton and Wolves ward off foreign-and indeed, American-investment interest remains to be seen. Kroenke’s takeover of Arsenal understandably sparks distrust among supporters of the club who were quick to point to a similar burdening of the club as is being done with other EPL giants. As news of the takeover emerged, the buzzword of the day became ‘leverage buyout’.
With most of his wealth tied up as assets back home, the fear is that Kroenke doesn’t possess the ready cash (£500m) to fund his £11,750-ashare offer to the club’s shareholders. While Kroenke Sports Enterprises has claimed the offer will not be funded by debt finance secured against the club, skeptics point out it could all still lead to the American regularly borrowing from the club.Their fears are not unfounded if recent happenings in US-owned clubs are anything to go by. Its American owners, the Glazers, have left Manchester United with a debt to the tune of $850 million ; and the Hicks & Gillette treatment of Liverpool which almost pushed the proud club to the brink of financial collapse, before a boardroom coup saved the day and New England Sports Ventures eventually took over.
But in Kroenke’s case, pundits are already allaying such fears. Kroenke has been on the Arsenal board-the clincher had there ensued a bidding war with Russian stakeholder Alisher Usmanov (26%)-and according to newspaper reports in the UK, he is not known to have sold a single share in any club after buying it. With Kroenke’s close association with the competitive teams that he owns back home-Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), the Colorado Rapid (MLS)-and his wellknown involvement with the teams’ fans should hold him in good stead.The greatest promise the move seems to hold is the implicit and continued backing for Wenger and the hope of increased funding to shop freely on the transfer market, an otherwise long-running Gunners bane. – TOI