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ARSENAL fans were dismayed today by news that US billionaire and the club’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has taken full ownership, saying it marked “a dreadful day” for the club.
The billionaire’s company, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE), previously owned 67 per cent of the Gunners before snapping up the 30 per cent held by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov in a deal worth £1.8 billion.
In a statement published on the London Stock Exchange, Kroenke said: “We appreciate Mr Usmanov's dedication to the Arsenal Football Club and the storied ethos and history the club represents.
“KSE believes moving to private ownership will bring the benefits of a single owner better able to move quickly in furtherance of the club's strategy and ambitions.
“KSE is a committed, long-term owner of the club.”
However the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST), which promotes the interests of fans with shares in the club, said it was wholly against the takeover.
“This news marks a dreadful day for Arsenal Football Club,” AST said in a statement.
“The most dreadful part of this announcement is the news that Kroenke plans to forcibly purchase the shares held by Arsenal fans.
“Many of these fans are AST members and hold their shares not for value but as custodians who care for the future of the club.
“Kroenke's actions will neuter their voice and involvement. It is an action designed to remove shareholder scrutiny on how Arsenal is managed.
“By taking the club private Stan Kroenke will be able to ... pay management fees and dividends without any check or balance, [hold] no annual general meeting to hold the board to account, remove the independent directors and place debt onto Arsenal to support his other business interests.
Kroenke first threw his money into Arsenal 11 years ago and has been the majority shareholder of the club since 2011.
In order to buy out rival Usmanov, KSE has had to borrow £557 million from Deutsche Bank, putting just £45m of his own money on the line.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright took to social media, saying: “Incredibly sad day for so many of our fan shareholders that no longer own a part of this club.
“Imagine if this wasn't only about [money] but about the club, the community and the fans — all this new enthusiasm we are witnessing with [new coach] Unai [Emery] wouldn't feel like such a waste.”
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