Arsenal Ownership In a Battle of Billions

The billionaire founder and CEO of Spotify is set to launch a takeover bid for Arsenal in the coming days, but will he be successful? Could it actually happen?

That is the question that has been asked time and time again at Arsenal this week, as Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek prepares his takeover bid for the club.

The Spotify owner has not made a move to submit an offer to current owner Stan Kroenke officially, but an offer totalling around £1.8 billion ($2.5bn) is expected in the coming days.

How realistic is Ek’s plan to takeover Arsenal?

Well, it all comes down to the 73-year-old Kroenke in the United States. 

His Super League dreams come crashing down around him, and thousands of fans took to the streets in London last week to protest against his ownership. Could all this tempt Kroenke to cash in? 

The majority of fans will be hoping he decides to cash in, but at Arsenal, the feeling has always been that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) will once again not budge, just as they did four years ago when Alisher Usmanov made his move for the club.

That feeling that was solidly backed up by the strong statement issued by KSE on Tuesday night, one that reaffirmed their long-term plans for Arsenal in response to the reports of Ek’s interest in the club and his potential link-up with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.

It was a statement that reiterated the stance laid out by Josh Kroenke, the 40-year-old son of Arsenal owner Stan while speaking at a fans’ forum last Wednesday.

That firm stance is about to be tested by a man who shot himself into the limelight at Arsenal ahead of the game against Everton last Friday night.

Daniel Ek may be the founder and CEO of one of the world’s most successful companies in Spotify, but few within football had even heard of the 38-year-old before he took to Twitter at the end of last week to state his desire to buy the north London club.

The timing was impeccable. With the protests against Kroenke raging outside the stadium, Ek’s Tweet was clearly timed to generate maximum impact. And it did just that.

So, why does Ek want to buy Arsenal? Especially now, when finances in the game are at breaking point amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Well, he supports the team for a start. 

It’s a passion that was born out of watching Anders Limpar, the Swedish winger who made a huge impact in north London following his arrival in 1990, helping George Graham’s side to the first division title the following year.

And it’s since developed into a love affair, with stories rife of Ek watching Gunners games while sitting through Spotify board meetings.

For the majority of Arsenal fans, that is exactly what they want to hear.

When the popularity of the Kronekes is at an all-time low, the groundswell of opinion now is that change is needed and that anyone would be better than the KSE.

Even high-profile former players like Ian Wright have called for Kroenke to sell up, with fan groups such as the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) reporting huge numbers of new members following the collapse of the European Super League plans.

But whilst the AST have cautiously welcomed Ek’s interest in the club, they remain adamant that the key change needed at the ownership level is a willingness to have fan representation in the boardroom.

There have been suggestions this week that Ek and his consortium of Arsenal invincibles would be willing to give fans a say in how the club is run, with The Telegraph reporting that the billionaire is also open to the ‘golden share’ idea – something that would give fans the power to vote on and even block constitutional proposals or legacy decisions.

But for now, that all remains some way off. The only way fan representation at the board level would become a reality at Arsenal is if anyone can convince Kroenke to sell.

And those who know the American remain convinced he will have no issue standing firm in the face of any criticism that comes his way in the coming weeks and months, no matter how fierce.

It’s claimed that Ek’s offer for the club, when it does arrive, will be in the region of £1.8bn ($2.5bn). On the face of it, that does not seem enough. 

In amassing all of his shares in Arsenal since he first arrived on the scene in 2007, Kroenke has spent just over £1bn ($1.4bn). Many believe he would want three times that figure even to consider parting with the club.

Given Ek’s wealth is estimated to be around £3.4bn ($4.7bn), it seems like he would need some help to put together an offer that could be appealing.

But in linking up with Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira, he has gone for club legends rather than massively rich financial backers.

Whether Ek possesses the financial firepower to takeover Arsenal remains to be seen, but the battle lines in this power play have now been drawn.

For now, Kroenke still holds the keys to the Emirates, and it will take something monumental to convince a man who has never sold a single share in his sports franchises to even enter into talks.

Usmanov tried and failed, so now it’s Ek’s turn to take the American on.

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