Stan Kroenke has reportedly offered Alisher Usmanov £525 million for the latter's shares in Premier League club Arsenal. Kroenke is the Gunners' majority shareholder, but wants to seize control of Usmanov's stake of 30.4 percent, per notable website Arseblog (h/t Amy Lawrence of the Guardian).
Kroenke, who also owns the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, controls a 67 percent stake in Arsenal. The 70-year-old now wants to up his stake to 97 percent, according to Lawrence, who noted such a move would put Kroenke in a "position to squeeze out the minority shareholders and presents the risk Arsenal would become a privately owned business."
If Usmanov accepts Kroenke's bid, it could also result in a few other significant developments. Lawrence detailed how majority ownership for the American would remove "any requirement for the publication of accounts or an AGM."
Both of those things have become key components for shareholders and Arsenal supporters in recent seasons. The publication of accounts has been a vital source of information for a match-going public eager to know how much money is truly at the disposal of manager Arsene Wenger, traditionally one of the more frugal operators in the transfer market.
The AGM sessions have afforded shareholders chances to question the decisions of Wenger, as well as the opportunity to grill chief executive Ivan Gazidis about the direction of the club, both on and off the pitch. Such question-and-answer meetings may have become heated in recent years, as the Gunners have struggled to compete for major trophies.
Yet they have also kept at least some lines of communication open between the club and its fans.
Speaking of those fans, the Arsenal Supporters' Trust has urged Usmanov to reject Kroenke's advances, per Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph. This influential group made the following statement regarding the implications of Kroenke's bid for near full control, per Wilson:
"The AST continues to believe that Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person. The best ownership model for Arsenal will always include supporters being represented and involved in the ownership structure as shareholders. We understand the reality that any stake in Arsenal is available to buy at any time should someone make an acceptable bid, but we will oppose any attempt to buy the club outright and take it into single ownership."
This isn't the first time Kroenke has attempted to purchase Usmanov's shares. He had a bid turned down as far back as 2011.
Meanwhile, Usmanov tried to buy out Kroenke earlier this year, only to be rejected flatly.
At the time, Kroenke was the subject of protests by Arsenal supporters bemoaning the club's failure to win the Premier League title, per Charles Watts of Football.London: "Chants of 'Stan Kroenke, get out of out club' rang around the stadium. They started in the first half of the 3-1 win against Everton and continued right through to the lap of appreciation."
Arsenal haven't won a league title since 2004 on Wenger's watch, yet Kroenke remains a firm supporter of the Frenchman. His faith was instrumental in Wenger agreeing to a new two-year contract this summer, despite the Gunners finishing fifth last season and missing out on UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time since 1997.
Back in May, Kroenke offered his unequivocal support of Wenger, per the Guardian's David Hytner:
"Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe. It’s what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won’t rest until that is achieved. Arsene is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing."
Wenger himself has been the subject of repeated protests during recent seasons. However, his most influential supporter appears determined to strengthen his control of Arsenal and continue running the club in a way that's left some fans worried and discontent.