With the rumours floating around that Alisher Usmanov is looking to sell his shares in Arsenal, the spotlight for a few days has fallen on majority share holder Stan Kroenke.
I am going to be controversial here. Whilst I do not “support” Stan Kroenke, no more than I would support the majority share holder of Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, I actually do not think he is that bad an owner.
A lot of people point to him as being greedy. Only in Arsenal for the money. This is probably true, but the money he is in Arsenal for is the rising share price.
He has often been criticised for “taking money out of the club”, but do we actually know how much money he has taken out? Well we do.
According to club accounts, he has taken out £6million. Two payments of £3million. That is over an 11 year period, for “services rendered” apparently associated his own STATs DNA company (or whatever they are called).
£6million is not that much in the grand scheme of things.
Compare this to the Glazier family at Manchester United.
It was reported in May 2017 that they were going to pay themselves a £18.7million dividend. This was following a £15million dividend the year before.
That makes a total of £33m that the family members will have shared in the two years since the dividend was first announced in September 2015.
You add this dividend to the £790million they leveraged against the club when they bought it in 2005 – literally using Manchester United’s own funds to buy the club, and you see what a true greedy owner is.
Kroenke used his own money to buy Arsenal’s shares and has taken out £6million. The Glazier’s are using money generated by Manchester United’s to pay off loans when buying the club, and have taken out £33million in two years.
A 2015 report by Manchester United Supports Club estimates that Glazier’s have profiteered by “more than £1 BILLION and it’s still rising” since buying Manchester United.
A bit like Ivan Gazidis, the recent actions by the club with the appointment of Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi & Sven Mislintat are to be highly praised. How much Kroenke had to do with it is unknown. Chances are Josh Kroenke was more involved than his father.
But this is also something that Kroenke should be praised for. His “silent Stan” moniker is a criticism, but can also be praised.
Kroenke is a hands off owner. Some might see this as bad, but it is actually good in my eyes.
He is not a football man. He has no idea about football. He is an investor, no different to investors in Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Lidl. They do not know how to work in a supermarket, how to run it. There job is to put the correct people in place to run it. And Kroenke has finally done that with Gazidis, Sanllehi & Mislintat.
The last thing we want is to have an interfering owner who does not know about football, meddling. Going into the dressing room, attempting to influence the manager, picking the team, signing players based on who he wants, rather than what the manager wants.
We have seen plenty of owners who interfere, the likes of Mohamed al Fayed at Fulham. They want to become the footballer, they want to become the star. They own the club to push themselves in the limelight. Kroenke does not want that. He wants to sit quietly and let the football people run the football club.
But this is also where he is heavily criticised.
By sitting back, seemingly not doing much, he is also not putting his own hand in his pocket. He does not spend his own money on players.
A lot of fans look at Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Manchester City, the blokes at PSG, and that is what they want in an owner. Someone who wants to spend £200m a year of their own money on the club. They want Arsenal to become a rich mans play thing.
As we have seen with Chelsea over the last decade, being a rich mans play thing might be exciting in the short term, but what happens when the owner starts to become disinterested, like Abramovich is now.
Arsenal have always run with a self-sustaining business model. It is the way the best companies, and best football clubs, run.
Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid. All self-sustaining models who spend what they bring in (even if there are a few tax irregularities). The likes of Manchester City, PSG and Chelsea might be successful in the short term, but you can not buy a long term seat to the top table.
By spending within yourself, ensure the books balance, you ensure a natural future for the club. Not a boom and bust model.
When it comes to transfers, as far as I am aware, Kroenke has never stepped in and refused club funds to buy a player.
Other criticisms of Kroenke are also unfounded.
Those that claim he is using the value of Arsenal to raise loans to fund his stadium in LA, and to buy a ranch in Texas are commenting without proof. He bought the ranch with cash, and the $1.8bn stadium in Inglewood is privately financed.
And it also highlights that people do not know how things work.
Kroenke can not take loans out against Arsenal Football Club. He is not the sole, private owner, he is just a share holder. What he could do is take out loans against the value of the shares he owns, but this will have zero effect on the club.
Were he to default the loans, the bank would own the shares and sell on. He is not using club funds to secure loans but his own assets.
Now if he was in the position of Abramovich, owned 100% of the club and turned it private, he could use Arsenal funds to secure loans elsewhere, or take even more money out of the club.
There is a fear that if Usmanov sells, Kroenke might be the buyer.
If the American purchases Usmanov’s 30%, he would then be able to force through the purchase of all remaining shares. He could then follow the Glazier’s model and throw a load of debt into the club which he can profit from.
I do question how much debt he would be able to throw in.
Arsenal still owe the banks £200m-ish for the stadium build. Would too many creditors offer additional loans on top of what the club already owes?
It would be a bit like having a £200k mortgage left to pay on a £400k house. You go the banks to get a second mortgage, but they are only going to give you another (perhaps) £150k as you do not have the assets to cover much more.
Would a bank give Kroenke a £500m loan to buy Usmanov’s shares, knowing that the club is being used to finance the loan, and therefore putting Arsenal £700million into debt with the club? Probably not. So I think the fear of Kroenke using the club to leverage more debt is scare mongering.
Kroenke is certainly not the perfect owner, but he is certainly not the worst.
Could Kroenke have done things earlier with Arsene Wenger? Yes. Does he have his faults? Yes. Could he engage fans better? Yes. But is Stan Kroenke as bad as some people make out? No.