Usmanov plans Arsenal stake sale as he admits ownership defeat

Russian billionaire unwilling to sell 30 per cent of soccer giants to rival Stan Kroenke.

Usmanov plans Arsenal stake sale as he admits ownership defeat

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Alisher Usmanov appears to have accepted defeat in his bid to take control of English soccer giants Arsenal and is exploring the sale of his stake in the Premier League club, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The British business daily reports that Usmanov, 64, has conceded that US sports mogul Stan Kroenke has the upper hand in the battle for control of the top-flight English soccer club. The Russian billionaire owns 30 per cent of Arsenal but Kroenke is unwilling to engage in takeover talks and Usmanov has apparently given up hope of acquiring the club outright.

A source told the FT: “He was really frustrated that Kroenke wouldn’t sell at any price and now just wants out.”

Usmanov is reportedly willing to sell to any party other than Kroenke but a source close to the Russian admitted to the FT that the proposition is a tough sell.  Usmanov does not have a seat on the Arsenal board or any say over the running of the club and any new buyer faces the same problems with Mr Kroenke in effective control.

The decision to sell marks the beginning of the end of a long-running battle for control of Arsenal, with Usmanov and Kroenke locked in a bitter feud having repeatedly clashed over the direction of the club.

Last year, Kroenke’s 67 per cent stake was the subject of a US$1.3 billion offer from Usmanov, which the American rejected. Usmanov then turned down Kroenke’s UK£525 million offer for the Uzbeki native’s 30 per cent, saying: “I have always been and will continue to be an ardent supporter of Arsenal and I see my 30 per cent stake as an important aspect in protecting the best interests of the fans in the club.” However, a confidante of Usmanov told the FT that Kroenke is the logical buyer.

A sale could also end the impasse in the boardroom just as Arsenal prepare to move into a new era on the pitch following the arrival of Unai Emery to succeed longstanding former manager Arsene Wenger.

Usmanov initially bought into Arsenal alongside now Everton owner Farhad Moshiri in 2007, securing a 14.6 per cent stake for UK£75 million. In 2016, Usmanov bought out Moshiri and increased his stake to 30 per cent.

Kroenke also bought into Arsenal in 2007 and became majority shareholder four years later.