Van Persie saga sparks civil war at Arsenal
06 Jul 2012
The tensions between Arsenal’s key stakeholders were exposed on Thursday as Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Securities expressed its “deep reservations” over majority shareholder Stan Kroenke’s running of the Barclays Premier League club.
Red & White issued a scathing attack on the current hierarchy in an open letter issued a day after captain Robin van Persie expressed his desire to leave Arsenal, with the Dutch international also criticising the club’s future strategy. Russian billionaire Usmanov, and his business partner Farhad Moshiri, have been steadily increasing their stake in the club in recent times and currently own 29.72% of Arsenal through Red and White, their investment vehicle. American billionaire Kroenke is Arsenal’s majority shareholder with a 66.83% stake but Red & White have complained that the American is running the club “without any investment”. “It is down to our manager and not the shareholders to have to deal with the club’s tight finances, carry the burden of repaying the stadium debt by selling his best players and having to continue to find cheaper replacements,” Usmanov and Moshiri wrote. “All of that, naturally, comes at the expense of performance on the pitch. This policy is leading to the loss of our best players, often to our main competitors, and even causes the players themselves to question their future at the club and the club’s ambitions. The situation with our captain and outstanding performer from last season, Robin van Persie, sums this up.”
Arsenal has seen a number of its leading stars depart the club in recent years and Red & White, which does not have a representative on the board, believes Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has given the impression there is a “bitter stand-off” between themselves and the club hierarchy. The letter continued: “In our view it is clear you are trying to distract attention from the more fundamental issues facing the club. These are the financial model, the lack of investment and club’s future strategic direction. At the heart of this is the policy of so-called self-financing. The previous decision by the board to fund the building of the Emirates Stadium with long-term debt was, we believe, certainly not about self-financing.”
Usmanov and Moshiri say they have been refused meetings with Kroenke. Russia’s richest man last month stated he would like to increase his stake in Arsenal, but said he was not seeking a place on the board adding “no, I don’t want to be on the board when I’m not invited.” In Thursday’s letter Red & White said it has “invested circa £200 million of cash” and outlined its “vision” for the North London club. The letter added: “It is simple. A debt free club, with a big enough war chest to buy top talent players who can hit the ground running and who can complement the club’s long tradition of developing young players and homegrown talent. Together they can help the club win the most prestigious trophies – because it is the trophies which are the crowning achievement for everybody at the club.”