Billionaire Stan Kroenke’s deal to take Arsenal private has been criticised by the supporters’ trust as a “dreadful” day for the English Premier League club.
Mr. Kroenke, who owns the Los Angeles Rams American Football team and Denver Nuggets basketball team, has offered to buy out rival billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s 30% stake to take full control in a deal valuing the club at £1.8bn.
To pay for the deal, Mr Kroenke will pay £45m in cash and take a £557m loan from Deutsche Bank.
“By taking the Club private Stan Kroenke will be able to… place debt onto Arsenal to support his other business interests,” Arsenal Supports’ Trust said.
“The AST is extremely concerned to note that this purchase is being funded by a loan.
“The most dreadful part of this announcement is the news that Kroenke plans to forcibly purchase the shares held by Arsenal fans.
“Many of these fans are AST members and hold their share not for value but as custodians who care about the future of the club.”
“Kroenke’s actions will neuter their voice and involvement.”
Mr Kroenke, who owns 67.09% of Arsenal through KSE UK, has received “an irrevocable undertaking” from Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov to sell his 30% stake in the club.
Mr Usmanov will receive £550m for his holding, based on the share price of £29,419.64.
Despite being the club’s second-largest individual shareholder, Mr Usmanov had grown frustrated at not been given a seat on the board and has made several attempts at buying out Mr Kroenke’s majority stake.
Mr Usmanov has been critical of Mr Kroenke’s running of the club on and off the field. He blamed the US billionaire for the club’s poor performance and lack of investment in players.
Arsenal finished sixth in the league and missed out on a place in the Champions League last season.
In May last year, Mr Usmanov made a $1.3bn (£1bn) offer to buy out his rival shareholder but that was rejected.
In October, Kroenke Sports Enterprise UK (KSE) offered around £525m to buy the 18,695 shares held by Mr Usmanov’s Red and White Securities Limited. That offer was declined.
Mr Kroenke, who owns the Los Angeles Rams American Football team and Denver Nuggets basketball teams, said: “We at KSE are moving forward with this offer leading to 100% ownership of the Club.
“We appreciate Mr Usmanov’s dedication to the Arsenal Football Club and the storied ethos and history the Club represents.”
“KSE believes moving to private ownership will bring the benefits of a single owner better able to move quickly in furtherance of the club’s strategy and ambitions. KSE is a committed, long-term owner of the Club.”
The deal comes at a crucial time for the North London club, which embarks on life without long-time manager Arsene Wenger, who stepped down in April after 22 years in charge.
Unai Emery has been charged with returning the club to the summit of the league but he faces stiff competition from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
The club last won the Premier League in 2004.