Ownership of Arsenal FC

Ownership of Arsenal F.C.

The ownership of Arsenal Football Club is considerably different to that of other clubs in English football. It is owned by a parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, which has relatively few shares which are infrequently traded. Recently the club has attracted outside bidders and from 2007 two rival tycoons have launched takeover bids.

Financial structure

Arsenal's parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, operates as a non-quoted public limited company, whose ownership is considerably different from that of other football clubs. Only 62,217 shares in Arsenal have been issued, and they are not traded on a public exchange such as the FTSE or AIM; instead, they are traded relatively infrequently on PLUS, a specialist market. As of 19 September 2008, a single share in Arsenal has a mid price of £8,800, meaning the club's market capitalisation value is approximately £547.5m.

The club made an operating profit (excluding player transfers) of £36.7m in the year ending 31 May 2008, from a turnover of £223.0m. In April 2008, business magazine Forbes ranked Arsenal as third most valuable football team in the world, after Manchester United and Real Madrid, valuing the club at $1.2bn (£605m), excluding debt. Accountants Deloitte rate Arsenal fifth in the 2008 Deloitte Football Money League, a ranking of the world's football clubs in terms of revenue, with the club earning £177.6m in the 2006–07 season, moving up from ninth the previous season.

History

As an amateur club, Royal Arsenal FC, Arsenal started out as a mutually owned club but after turning professional, converted to a limited liability company in 1893. The company struggled in the club's early years, with its location in industrial Woolwich resulting in low attendances. The club was liquidated and reformed in 1910, and taken over by the owner of Fulham, Henry Norris. Norris owned the club for the next 19 years, moving it to Arsenal Stadium in Highbury in 1913. Norris however was forced to resign as chairman and leave Arsenal in 1929 following an expenses scandal, and the club's shares were later taken over by Bracewell Smith and Samuel Hill-Wood, who both served as chairman.

Samuel Hill-Wood's grandson and current Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood sold much of his family's shareholdings in the 1980s to David Dein, who sold some of them on to Danny Fiszman. Some of Bracewell Smith's holdings are still owned by his descendants. In the early 2000s the club sold a 9.9% stake to Granada Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of ITV plc, and a significant stake was also bought by hedge fund Lansdowne Partners.

Current shareholders

Arsenal's board of directors hold 57% of the club's shares; the largest shareholders on the board are Danny Fiszman and Nina Bracewell-Smith (wife of Charles Bracewell-Smith, one of Bracewell Smith's grandchildren), who hold 24.1% and 15.9% respectively. Fellow director Richard Carr (grandson of Bracewell Smith) has 4.4% and club chairman Peter Hill-Wood owns 0.8%, with all the other directors (bar Stan Kroenke, see below) holding nominal amounts. There are also many minor shareholders of the club, including former players Ian Wright and Liam Brady, and three shared owned by the Arsenal Supporters' Trust.

2007-08 takeover bid

In recent years, with several other major English clubs all having been taken over by foreign investors, Arsenal have been identified as a target for a buyout. The American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke currently holds 12.4% after buying an initial 9.9% from ITV plc in April 2007; initially treated with hostility, he is now regarded as an ally of the Arsenal board and was appointed a non-executive director of the club in September 2008.

A rival bid for the club has come from the firm Red & White Holdings, which is co-owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and London-based financier Farhad Moshiri. Red & White bought the stake held by former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, as well as stakes owned by Lansdowne and many other minor shareholders, and as of February 2008 own about 24% of the club, the largest single stake owned by a non-board member. This has led to press speculation of a bidding war between Kroenke and Usmanov. However, Kroenke has agreed not to purchase more than 29.9% of the club until at least September 2009, while the rest of the board have agreed not to consider a sale of their shares to "non-permitted persons" until at least April 2009, and have first option on each others' shares until October 2012.

References

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