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It must be June - Arsenal takeover talk is rearing its ugly head again

You can tell all is quiet in the sports departments of Britain's newspapers because of the major Arsenal stories they are running with today.

First there's the speculation that my favourite player, Gael Clichy, could be on his way to Italy and then there's the story that the winds of change could also be sweeping through Arsenal at board level with the directors lining up a sale to a foreign billionaire.

Handling the Clichy news first, my simple reaction is No Way. Gael seems to be deliriously happy being a Gunner, as under Arsene Wenger he has turned into one of the world's best left backs and unlike some of his peers, he seems to possess something called loyalty.

On the club's ownership, various newspapers are quoting insider sources who suggest that American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke is about to be offered a seat on the board, but will also be offered first refusal on the sale of his fellow directors' shares, paving the way for him to take full ownership of Arsenal Football Club...

The board were initially sceptical about Kroenke's intentions when he acquired a 12% stake in the club, but the Denver-based sports fanatic has since bought Arsenal broadband and a little bit of investigation has seen him win over the Gunners hierarchy.

Although chairman Peter Hill-Wood has stated in the past that Arsenal should remain in English hands, the times are changing and Hill-Wood is one of the smaller shareholders at the club.

More importantly, the board's ongoing feud with David Dein, who is at the helm of Uzbeki billionaire Alisher Usmanov's plans to take over at Arsenal, means that they see Kroenke as very much the lesser of two evils.

Indeed, while Usmanov's intentions for Arsenal remain unclear, Kroenke has a proven track record which has been nothing but healthy for the sporting franchises that he controls.

The 61-year-old may not be as wealthy as Usmanov, but Kroenke would definitely be the fans choice given that he already counts ice hockey, basketball and American football clubs, as well as Major League Soccer outfit Colorado Rapids among his assets and he has never sold a stake in any of the teams he has invested in.

The ideal scenario would be if Kroenke were to buy out Usmanov's 24.9% stake in Arsenal and then work with the current directors to strengthen the club and expand the brand overseas. But Usmanov doesn't seem like the kind of person that easily backs down, so the saga of an Arsenal takeover will probably help the sports hacks fill in white spaces for many months, if not years, to come.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on June 20, 2008 9:53 AM in News
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