Key shareholder to leave Arsenal

New Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis and chairman Peter Hill-Wood
Hill-Wood (right) will see new chief exec Ivan Gazidis start in January

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood insists a major boardroom reshuffle will not alter their policy of trying to keep the club’s ownership in-house.

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, Arsenal’s third-largest shareholder, left the board on Wednesday.

Hill-Wood said he was not sure whether Bracewell-Smith would sell her shares.

But if her 15.9% stake was to become available, Uzbekistan metals magnate Alisher Usmanov could pass the 30% mark which would force a takeover bid.

Usmanov already owns 24% through his Red & White Holdings company, having initially bought former vice-chairman David Dein’s 14.5% stake in the club.

American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, who holds a stake of about 12% in the Gunners’ parent company, accepted an offer to become a non-executive director on the Arsenal board in September as ties with his Kroenke Sports Enterprises group were strengthened.

If Kroenke were to buy the shares, he would become the club’s majority shareholder with a 27.9% stake.

Unlike Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, Arsenal remain under British ownership and have so far resisted attempts by overseas investors to take a controlling share.

Arsenal’s board had reached a “lockdown” agreement until April 2009 in which shares would only be sold to “permitted persons” such as family members.

A longer-term agreement until October 2012 required directors to give fellow board members first option on any shares for sale.

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But having stood down from the board of both the club and its holding company, Bracewell-Smith, whose family association with Arsenal spans more than 50 years, has been removed from the agreement.

Hill-Wood, though, insisted it remains business as usual at the club, who have Ivan Gazidis starting as their new chief executive on 1 January.

“Lady Nina is no longer representing the club and therefore is released from the lockdown. However it was created to maintain stability in the club and those participants are committed to maintaining the ownership structure as it is,” he said.

“I don’t know for certain what she wants to do with her shares. I do know that the Bracewell-Smith family have been involved with the club for many, many years and are great supporters.

“We hope that she would remain a shareholder but she has not spoken to me about it lately. She is no longer in the lockdown so she is free to do what she wishes to do.

KEY ARSENAL SHAREHOLDERS
Daniel Fiszman 24.11%
Red & White Holdings 24%
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith 15.9%
Stan Kroenke 12.4%
Richard Carr 4.4%

“The philosophy of the club remains the same. Our efforts are directed towards stability and making the club successful. Changes of personnel will not alter the directors’ view of how we should proceed in the future.”

Hill-Wood added that if the shares were to become available, existing board members – who include director Daniel Fiszman, the largest stakeholder in the club with 24.11% – could buy them to prevent them being bought by external investors.

“The board is very keen to retain control of the club to ensure that its values and traditions are upheld and live on for many years to come,” he said.

Long-standing board member Richard Carr also stood down as a director of Arsenal’s holding company, although he will remain on the football club’s board.

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