Africa’s richest man gunning for ownership of Arsenal FC ‘within four years’

Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian businessman and Gunners fan with an estimated $10bn fortune, says he will buy the English Premier League outfit.
Africa’s richest man is a fan of Arsenal, above. He says he wants to buy the club and turn it around – once his business prospects improve. Tony O’Brien / Reuters
Africa’s richest man is a fan of Arsenal, above. He says he wants to buy the club and turn it around – once his business prospects improve. Tony O’Brien / Reuters

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, plans to buy London-based Arsenal football club within four years.

Mr Dangote, a Nigerian worth US$10.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said he needs to wait for his business prospects to improve and his investments in gas pipelines and an oil refinery to play out before making the acquisition.

He said in New York today “there’s no doubt” he would buy Arsenal and “it’s not a problem” of money. “Maybe three to four years. The issue is that we have more challenging headwinds. I need to get those out the way first and start having tailwinds. Then I’ll focus on this.”

Mr Dangote, an Arsenal fan, has lost $4.4bn this year, the fourth most of anyone globally, due mainly to the depreciation of Nigeria’s currency, the billionaires index shows. The bulk of his wealth is tied up in Lagos-based Dangote Cement, whose stock is down 4.7 per cent this year. An acquisition of the team would make him the first African owner of a team in England’s Premier League.

“It’s not about buying Arsenal and just continuing with business as usual,” he said. “It’s about buying Arsenal and turning it around. I’ve run a very successful business and I think I can also run a very successful team. Right now, with what we’re facing, over $20bn of projects, I cannot do both.”

While Arsenal has won 13 top-flight league titles in England, making it one of the country’s most successful sides, its last was in 2004.

Arsenal Holdings, the owner, trades on the ICAP Securities & Derivatives Exchange, or ISDX, and has a market capitalisation of £1bn (Dh4.79bn).

Stan Kroenke, worth $7bn and the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets, holds 67 per cent of Arsenal Holdings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and the club’s primary sponsor is Emirates, after which its home ground stadium is also named.

Fans of the Gunners, as the club is known, would probably welcome a fresh billionaire with plans to restore it to the top of the table after long complaining not enough money has been spent in the players transfer market to enable the club to properly challenge teams such as Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City and their crosstown rivals Manchester United, or Europe’s top clubs such as Barcelona in the Champions League.

Most English Premier League matches are broadcast live in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, by Supersport, a satellite television channel owned by South Africa’s Naspers.

business@thenational.ae

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Published: September 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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