Arsenal fans set to meet Kroenke at AGM

October 22, 2008

Arsenal shareholders are expected to get their first opportunity to see new board member Stan Kroenke at Emirates Stadium at the club's Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

The American sports tycoon, who holds around a 12% stake in the Gunners parent company, accepted the offer to become a non-executive director in September as ties with the Kroenke Sports Enterprises group were strengthened.

Although Kroenke is not party to the 'lockdown agreement' which was signed by the other directors, he has, after some initial hostility, become a stern ally of the current board.

Arsenal's other overseas investor, Uzbekistan metals magnate Alisher Usmanov - who bought into Arsenal when he paid former vice-chairman David Dein around £75million for his 14.65% holding - is entitled to attend, but chose not to last year.

Much has been made of Usmanov's intentions via the Red and White Holding investment firm, headed by Dein. But if his stake reached 30%, a formal takeover approach would have to be launched.

Director Daniel Fiszman remains the largest stakeholder in the club with 24.11%, and given the lockdown agreement means the first option on any sale of shares must be given to existing board members until 2012, rumours of more manoeuvrings in a power struggle behind the scenes appear without foundation.

Nevertheless, the AGM is likely to address the long-term financial stability of the club, which is currently servicing a debt of almost £300million following the switch to their new 60,000-seater home.

Following responses to pre-submitted questions by shareholders, normally from chairman Peter-Hill Wood, the floor will be opened up.

Despite a massive increase in turnover at the Emirates Stadium, there has been some concern over the impact of the credit crunch on the redevelopment of Highbury into flats and luxury apartments.

However, acting managing director Ken Friar revealed more than 90 purchasers have already completed deals to generate £39million, while 598 units of the 680 total have been pre-sold.

The extra revenue brought in from the development could, according to Friar, be channelled straight back into the team.

''The finances for the Highbury Square development have been ring-fenced so they are separate from our usual football business,'' he said.

''As such we have not budgeted for the profit and this allows the board to be flexible over its use as the money has not been earmarked for anything in particular.

''In that sense it will be a bonus. We have options available to us. For example, profits could be used to reduce the stadium debt or to strengthen the team if the manager wishes.''