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The Guardian on the Bracewell-Smith Renunciation

It was resentment of Danny Fiszman’s influence that drove her to leave, according to their source. Which is appropriate, because the one thing this story lacked to this point was a diamond dealer living as a tax exile in Switzerland.

From Matt Scott’s piece:

Directors have followed the vision of Danny Fiszman, whose 24.11% stake made him the largest single ­shareholder in the club until Usmanov built a superior holding.

It was Fiszman’s decision to build the Emirates Stadium and to redevelop Highbury as a residential complex. But he now lives as a tax exile in Switzerland and his visits to the club are increasingly infrequent. That stoked frustration in Bracewell-Smith, who controls 15.9% of Arsenal and whose family have owned a stake in the club since before the second world war — her husband’s grandfather, Sir Bracewell Smith, served as Arsenal’s chairman — because she felt the views of her family were being under-represented.

“She always felt the club was being run for Fiszman,” said a source. “Her family own nearly as much as him but she felt she was not being recognised in the way the club was run. She got fed up with that and they got fed up with her trying to exert her position — that she should be treated equally.”

What does this mean for the future of the club? That she’s likely to sell her shares immediately, according to Scott’s source, who is also far more skeptical of Stan Kroenke’s readiness to buy them than many Arsenal fans have been.

Of course there’s no telling who this anonymous source is or what their agenda may be—the quotes suggest someone close to Bracewell-Smith and hostile to Fiszman, but that could be pure affect—so take this with the doubt it clearly warrants. Still, it’s the most authoritative statement yet on the meaning of the boardroom drama of the last two days, and it’s far more bullish about the prospects of Alisher Usmanov taking over Arsenal than most of the uninformed speculation has been.

UPDATE: The Telegraph have their own more-details version of the story up, and their sources are much less sympathetic to Bracewell-Smith and less bullish about Usmanov’s chances. Their version has the board removing Bracewell-Smith, rather than her resigning, and they intriguingly describe the resignation of her brother-in-law Richard Carr’s as an arranged move that allowed them to oust her unanimously.

The board had increasingly lost confidence in Bracewell-Smith and, with American businessman Stan Kroenke having accepting an invite to become a non-executive director, there is a feeling that her importance to repelling a possible hostile takeover had diminished.

Danny Fiszman, who owns 24 per cent of the shares, has apparently taken a calculated gamble in the belief that he no longer needs Bracewell-Smith and that Usmanov is currently unlikely to buy.

Both stories agree on a rift between Fiszman and Bracewell-Smith, but the Telegraph portrays her exit as a sign of Fiszman’s impatience with her rather than vice-versa. I don’t want to read too much into any of this, but the net impression you take from these stories is that Bracewell-Smith may be signalling her willingness to be sounded out by Usmanov, while the rest of the board is trying to prevent a deal between them. That’s scrying in tea leaves from this distance, though, and the only real answer is that 24 hours after the news broke, we still don’t know much about these upper-floor maneuverings.

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The Guardian on the Bracewell-Smith Renunciation

by Brian Phillips · December 18, 2008

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