Arsenal says club is not for sale

Arsenal's majority owner Stan Kroenke is committed to the 13-time English champion for the long term and would not consider a sale, the Premier League soccer club said in a statement today.

A Gulf-based group is planning a record £1.5 billion bid for the Gunners, according to reports in the Sunday Telegraph and the Sun.

The unidentified group comprises investors from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and is poised to begin negotiations, the newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source. It would be the biggest takeover of a sports team, and double the £790 million the US-based Glazer family paid for Manchester United in 2005.

In a statement, an Arsenal spokesman said the club had not had any contact from any consortium and that Mr Kroenke is committed to AFC for the long term and has no intention of selling.

Arsenal’s board and team manager Arsene Wenger have come under pressure from supporters following the sale of last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie to Manchester United and poor performances this season. Van Persie refused to sign a new contract, saying he did not agree with the Arsenal board’s strategy.

Some fans have accused the club of not spending enough on top talent to compete with rivals such as Premier League leader United and Manchester City and Chelsea, teams all backed by billionaire owners. Arsenal has also faced protests for charging the highest priced tickets in the league without restoring success. The newspaper reports said the Middle East investment group would cut ticket prices.

Mr Kroenke, an American sports mogul who also owns the National Football League’s St Louis Rams and the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, took control of Arsenal in 2011 after acquiring stakes owned by two former board members. Those purchases valued the club at £731m, less than half the amount the Gulf-based group would reportedly offer.

The Middle East group plans to make a cash offer that is worth more than twice what the club was valued at two years ago, according to the reports. The offer would be for all of the 62,217 issued shares would include about £830m for Kroenke, the Telegraph said.

Mr Kroenke had been vying for control with metals billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who retains a 29.96 per cent stake. Mr Usmanov has been critical of the way the club is run. The Russian in July wrote an open letter criticising the club for failing to keep van Persie and lack of investment.

* Bloomberg News


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