Who Is Aliko Dangote, and Is His Interest in Arsenal Realistic?May 11, 2015
Five years ago, as former shareholder Nina Bracewell-Smith's 15.9 percent stake in Arsenal Football Club was up for sale, a certain Nigerian businessman was thought to be interested.
Aliko Dangote—now Africa's richest documented person—shot down the speculation, as Franz Wild of Bloomberg Business noted, but declared his desire to own the north London side.
Nearly a half-decade later, and the industrial mogul is again thought to be manoeuvring his substantial £10.2/$15.7 billion fortune in the direction of the Emirates Stadium. Paul Wallace of Bloomberg Business reports Dangote hopes Arsenal, "one day at the right price," could be his.
Bracewell-Smith's share was sold to now-majority owner Stan Kroenke in 2011. The American billionaire, also majority owner of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, possesses nearly 67 percent of the club. Russian-Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov's Red and White Holdings Limited owns "a stake of over 30 percent," according to the London Stock Exchange.
Arsenal Football Club is worth £843 million/$1.3 billion, per Forbes' Mike Ozanian. Dangote forcing billionaires who do not need to sell their shares without massive (possibly ridiculous) offers would prove difficult.
Could the 58-year-old Nigerian buy the club?
In theory, yes.
Dangote has the funds, should he liquidate them, and an infatuation with the Gunners that could precipitate into an insane amount of money waged.
One, though, must be of the opinion: Billionaires (excluding those whom inheritance earn the title), in large part, do not become so by making foolish, knee-jerk decisions. Dangote told Bloomberg's Wallace something similar: "I might buy [Arsenal]; not at a ridiculous price but a price that the owners won't want to resist. I know my strategy."
Though having a passionate supporter at the football club's helm seems great at first glance, there is not much Arsenal would gain from Dangote's presence. Were he to have arrived between 2005 and 2009—when the Emirates was being built and before UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) regulations had taken hold—then his interest might have been more appreciated.
As seen with Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, having a billionaire in charge does not necessarily translate into world-beating teams.
Chelsea are a slight exception, as Roman Abramovich had just enough time to establish the west Londoners' brand before FFP regulations took hold, handcuffing the Russian's personal fortune.
Arsenal are largely self-sufficient at present. A new owner could certainly help ease the club's £240.5 million debt—according to the Daily Mail's Nick Harris—but finding success in the Premier League, domestic cups and possibly the Champions League, the Gunners economic status should improve regardless of the owner.
Should Kroenke and/or Usmanov plan on selling their stakes in the north London outfit, their first phone call should be to Dangote. The Nigerian has been largely successful in his professional life, so him translating that success to Arsenal is not a substantial leap.
Short of a crisis among Arsenal's ownership, however, Dangote purchasing a majority stake in the club anytime soon is highly unlikely—despite his incredible wealth and "Gooner" status.
*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase.com where not noted.