Is Mr Usmanov Arsenal’s saviour? by TN
There is great debate amongst Arsenal fans concerning Mr Usmanov and his role at AFC. The main two arguments surround whether or not he should be given a seat on the board and the possible further injections of funds that Mr Usmanov may offer, allowing us once again to compete with the likes of United, Chelsea, City, Barcelona and Madrid.
It is worth noting that Mr Usmanov’s wealth far exceeds that of Mr Kroenke, Mr Usmanov’s wealth is estimated as 18.1 billion USD, for other comparison, Mr Abramovich is worth around 12 Billion USD.
There can be little doubt that Mr Usmanov has endeared himself to a very large percentage of the Arsenal fan base with his recent comments, in particular with the current board’s policy of allowing our top players to leave, lower standard replacements and the existing wage structure. It would almost be like having a fan on the board if Mr Usmanov was offered and took up his seat.
In a survey of 1,000 Gooner’s from around the world, albeit the vast majority being from the UK, 71.1% answered they would prefer Mr Usmanov as the sole owner of AFC, as opposed to 28.9% for Mr Kroenke.
A seat on the board?
If I had put nearly £200 million into AFC, or any other business, I most definitely would want to have a seat on the board and I think the consensus view would be that the current board should at least offer Mr Usmanov that opportunity. However, within their open letter to Mr Hill Wood dated 5th July 2012, Red and White Holdings state
‘As you all well know, Mr Usmanov has never sought a Board seat at the club. Indeed Mr Usmanov does not hold a board seat in any of the companies where he is an investor’
The question I posed was, should Mr Usmanov be offered a seat, many think he should, but according to his own letter he would not personally take it if offered. But that does not preclude the possibility of his representative sitting in his place. Surely if the board don’t personally like Mr Usmanov, a representative of his should be welcomed?
Within their letter, Red and White Holdings raise a number of issues concerning the transparency of AFC finances. To date, as far as I am aware, AFC have not made public the information requested by Red & White Holdings, a definite case of non transparency.
It is claimed, when talking about the financing of the stadium, ‘..a good part was funded by a loan from Deutsche Bank AG to KSE, UK, inc…the status of that loan and whether it is still outstanding has not been clarified by Mr Kroenke.’
I should point out KSE, UK, inc is actually an American company, registered in Delaware, and the loan to which Red & White Holdings refers totals £394 million. KSE UK Inc are a holding company, set up by Mr Kroenke, simply to hold the shares of Arsenal. .
Furthermore, within their letter, Red and White Holdings dismiss the current financial model as being there simply for the benefit of previous shareholders. It states; ‘The self-financing model was created to suit the major shareholders at that time, all of whom subsequently sold their shares.’
Interesting that the self-financing model was solely for the major shareholder’s benefit, not the club! Why has that changed is the question that immediately springs to my mind? If Mr Usmanov was on the board, maybe we could get the truth concerning the ‘self-financing model’ ie whose benefit is it really for?
Additional Funds for Player investment ?
Red and White Holdings further suggest that additional funds be injected into the club by Mr Usmanov and Mr Kroenke via a Rights Issue. Personally I cannot see anything wrong with that as it would give our manager funds to compete, on a level playing field, with other top clubs. The only information missing is the size of the Rights Issue ie how much money Mr Usmanov is suggesting he and Mr Kroenke put into the club.
A company undertaking a Rights Issue to raise funds is standard business practise.
So at this point, you have got to think Mr Usmanov gives us the possibility of ‘a fan on the board’, greater transparency and possibly an injection of funds for players. I say possibly, because the Arsenal board would still need to give their approval for the Rights Issue.
But of concern to the opponents of Mr Usmanov is his background.
Mr Usmanov is charged with being both a gangster and a racketeer. In particular, charges against him relate to a very vicious rape, torture, heroine trafficking and the disappearance of individuals. I must say that whilst researching for this article, I have read many unsavoury things concerning Mr Usmanov. But in the interests of fairness I also need to point out that Mr. Usmanov received a full pardon, rightly or wrongly, from Mr Gorbachev, for the activities he served 6 years in prison for. And although there are very serious charges being laid against Mr Usmanov, he has not actually been convicted of any, not that I can find.
But does the old saying apply here ie “there is no smoke without fire”
Clearly on the one hand we have Mr Usmanov as our potential saviour whilst on the other hand Mr Usmanov has rather a chequered past, and that’s putting it lightly.
So is it any wonder that we are seriously divided on the issue of Mr Usmanov? There are Gooner’s who see Mr Usmanov as our route back to the ‘top table’ and former glories, while there are other Gooners whose conciousness for their ‘fellow man’ will not accept Mr Usmanov at any cost.
But if we are to take the moral high ground and keep Mr Usmanov out, what about Mr Kroenke? Mr Kroenke, may not have been accused of rape and torture, but he has destroyed small businesses and American communities with his shopping plazas and Wal-marts, is that morally defensible?
So the question must be, do we continue to press for Mr Usmanov’s having a board seat? Or, do we support Mr Kroenke & the board in isolating Mr Usmanov because we have a greater sense of morality at our club?
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