Alhaji Aliko Dangote is Africa’s richest man and one of the richest men in the world. He is also an Arsenal FC of London fan. On several occasions, he had made public his love for the club.
He loves the club so much that in 2015, he declared his interest in outrightly owning the club. It is likely that he had looked across London to Chelsea and went green with envy over success recorded by Chelsea since Roman Abramovic assumed sole ownership. He must have wanted to replicate that with his darling club.
The first time rumors of Dangote’s interest in Arsenal surfaced was back in 2010. One of the biggest shareholders had sold her shares to Stan Kroenke.
The story was that Kroenke had outbid Dangote and several others to get the shares.
Kroenke had gone on to acquire about 60% shares in the club. That made him the dominant owner with Russian Billionaire Alisher Usmanov having a 30% stake. The remaining shares were held by individuals in the fan base.
The advent of Kroenke as the majority shareholder of Arsenal coincided with a negative change in fortunes for the club. From being a perennial challenger for the Premier League title, the Arsenal FC had slid down the ladder to a point where qualifications for the Champions League was held up as a success.
For many fans like Dangote, the situation was untenable. While most fans could only watch in impotence as their club became a laughing stock, Dangote felt he could do something about it.
That ‘something’ is to buy the club and invest a lot of money to be used to acquire the best players in the world.
There was even report back in 2016 that Dangote would buy Arsenal in 4 years. 2020 is just two years away; so that plan is still on track.
But how realistic is Dangote’s plan? Can he come up with the right price to own the club? Even more importantly, is Kroenke interested in selling?
If Dangote was serious about buying into Arsenal, he had definitely gone missing when Arsenal fans needed him the most.
In the last few days, Arsenal fans all over the world were in anguish over the news that Alisher Usmanov has agreed to sell his 30% stake in Arsenal to Kroenke. This opens to way to 100% by one man.
Usmanov only sold to Kroenke as a last resort. His Red and White Holdings had shopped around for a potential buyer of his 30 percent stake.
The fact is, Usmanov never wanted to sell to Kroenke because of the enmity between them. Kroenke, due to his majority ownership, denied Usmanov a seat on the board.
That means, even though he owned 30% of the club, Usmanov had no say in how the club was run. He never received any dividend for his shares and there was nothing he could do about it.
Everybody knew Usmanov wanted to be more involved in Arsenal. But that was impossible given the situation. He once even attempted to buy out Kroenke.
The American refused to sell his shares despite the irresistible offer on the table. Kroenke was in this for the long run.
Usmanov had to sell because his investment in Arsenal because it was completely useless to him. And the only person willing and able to come up with over half a billion dollars was Kroenke. So he is selling to his bitter rival.
The problem with a single-owner ownership are numerous. For instance;
- He is under no obligations to call an annual general meeting
- He can use the club as collateral to secure loans without being questioned
- The club’s accounts won’t be open to scrutiny if he doesn’t want it
- He can remove as much money from the club as he wishes at anytime
In other words, he can do whatever he decides which was impossible when Usmanov and a fewother people had shares in the club.
For those dreaming Arsenal FC would thrive like Chelsea after Abramovic bought the club, wake up. That is unlikely to happen.
Arsenal is not Kroenke’s first sports franchise. Through his holding company KSE, he owns sports franchises like:
- Denver Nuggets of the NBA
- Colorado Avalanche of the NHL
- Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer
- Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League
- Los Angeles Rams of the NFL
The common denominator is that all these clubs suffer from lack of investment in playing personnel and fans are not happy with results.
Kroenke is more interested in taking out money from the club to fund his lifestyle and other businesses or to use for tax purposes.
The bad news for Dangote is that Kroenke is a keeper. He never sells what he already owns no matter how bad things get. And things do get bad.
Dangote should have shown his love for Arsenal by buying Usmanov’s shares; that would at least put a check on Kroenke’s activities while giving him one foot in the door.
Though it must be said the foot would be a useless one since Kroenke would likely have treated him the same way he did Usmanov.
The bottom line is Dangote is not going to buy Arsenal anytime soon. He doesn’t have enough money to make an offer Kroenke can’t refuse.