Alisher Usmanov Increases His Stake in Arsenal
by Brian Phillips · February 16, 2009
It’s now over 25%, apparently, up from 24.9% the last time anyone checked. Not a big increase, but a potentially intriguing one depending on the source of the extra shares. Around 42% of Arsenal’s shares are owned by the board of directors, who have a deal in place not to sell them (a deal that was instituted precisely to prevent the unsavory and pie-faced Usmanov from taking over the club). That number used to be closer to 58%, but the sensational departure of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith from the board in December, possibly after a falling-out with fellow board member and self-exiled diamond dealer Danny Fiszman, liberated her 15.9% stake from the lockdown agreement. Which, in turn, set her up on an independent basis as a potentially vengeful kingmaker (if Usmanov acquires her shares, he sets legal machinery in motion that could see him acquire the whole club) and/or doe-eyed prey of huffing Uzbek billionaires the world over. (However, there is only one.)
So if, as is likely, the increase in Usmanov’s Arsenal holding is the result of someone’s great-niece Rosetta selling her 0.2% stake, it’s not all that interesting. If it’s the result of Lady Nina firing a warning shot at Peter Wood-Hogg or whatever his name is, or starting a slow-drip torture transfer of her share of the club to Usmanov, then it’s enormously interesting. Unfortunately, we don’t know which it is; the newspapers all mention the Bracewell-Smith drama in their reports, but they don’t explicitly link it to the news, presumably because they can’t. And so the Ship of Lost Souls continues to chart its course through the gales of unknown seas.
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