Usmanov Ready to Take Control of Arsenal
The second-largest shareholder of U.K. soccer team Arsenal has told CNBC that he is ready to do all he can to help the team and is ready to take control of the club and buy the remaining shares.
Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov currently owns 29.9 percent of the club, after buying former vice-chairman David Dein's stake in 2008 for 75 million pounds ($122 million). But Usmanov has been locked in a battle with Arsenal's major shareholder Stan Kroenke, who has refused any kind of dialogue with Usmanov and denied him a seat on the board, a decision Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is believed to have backed.
"I want to take this opportunity to just reaffirm that in order to help the team, we would be ready to buy more shares, to buy control, to buy all shares," he told CNBC Thursday in Moscow.
"We are ready to do all that we can in order to help the company, in order to consider any form of cooperation or ownership with the team."
Uzbek-born Usmanov said he doesn't want to be a member of the board as it currently stands but it "rankles" him that one of the major shareholders isn't part of the decision making process.
Arsenal, without a trophy since 2005, has faced heavy criticism this season after key players left the club without being replaced with high profile recruits. Results also haven't gone its way, although the team stands fifth in the Premier League and still remains in Europe's premier competition, the Champions League.
Selling star striker Robin Van Persie to league leaders Manchester United was a mistake, according Usmanov, but he confirmed that he wouldn't interfere with Arsene Wenger on transfer decisions if he had a greater say at the club. He also said Wenger "doesn't have enough support".
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Reported by Forbes magazine to be Russia's richest man, Usmanov made his money in the timber and mining industry as well as investments in other sectors. He told CNBC it would be his dream to take control of the club and described Wenger as "one of the best coaches in the world".
"If I have big stake in Arsenal, of course I have my opinion about what our team must do," he said. "For example in commercial side, I think there are also many questions about [effectiveness] of the commercial management of Arsenal. But we will see, we will wait. Maybe when I wake up someday I'll have this Arsenal club."
"I want to talk with every Arsenal fan. I am with you. I'm one of you. I'm ready to help the club with anything what I can."
Meanwhile Arsene Wenger was quick to respond to the comments made by Usmanov at a press conference on Thursday.
"I believe I have always had the support from the board, and am very grateful for that," he said, remaining adamant that the board always put the club's interests first.
"We have worked over the years in respecting in what we did, which is to always work within our financial resources," he said.
"Therefore we made decisions which from outside looked not based on purely footballing reasons, but it was based as well on financial reasons."