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CNBC Exclusive Interview: Alisher Usmanov, Founder of USM Holdings

WHEN: CNBC EXCLUSIVE, today Monday, 24th November.

Following is highlights of the unofficial transcript of a CNBC exclusive interview with Alisher Usmanov, Founder of USM Holdings with CNBC's Geoff Cutmore.

Following is a link to embeddable video clip of the interview on CNBC.com http://www.cnbc.com/id/102211548.

All references must be sourced to a 'CNBC exclusive interview'.

USMANOV: And regarding second question and my private evaluation of my favourite club - Arsenal I can tell that Arsenal is a dream that sometimes becomes a mirage and sometimes a pain as every dream. Potential of the team is there, but there is no critical evaluation of own mistakes and their admittance. Because not a single genius can retain its level when he does not admit own mistakes. Only when you admit your mistakes you rid of them. I wish this to my club. Nothing wrong, but we just repeat same results year by year. Quite high to secure the place in the Champions League. But we regularly loose in the first circles of play-offs. As an investor I am not happy with that.

CNBC's Geoff Cutmore (GC): The fans are disappointed, some of them it's time for Arsene Wenger to leave, does he still have your backing?

USMANOV: First of all I decide nothing in this matter. This a strange position when the second biggest investor, who has more than 30%, decides nothing and it is frustrating. Although I have a great respect for the president of the club. As to Arsene Wenger - he is one of the greatest coaches not just of European, but of world football. But we have a Russian proverb which goes, even an old lady can make a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. He can make mistakes and I know as you age that it is more difficult, more challenging to accept ones mistakes. Maybe it's a problem today. He is a great man, a great coach, he had great victories and he has to have an opportunity to secure the place, which he and his team ought to have. I think the men who created winners have to be winners themselves. And I wish him this. Another question is to how to make this possible and are there conditions for this. I think club leadership relies on Wenger, so it's his responsibility. So I wish him all kinds of success.

GC: He has the money to spend, he can go out and spend it, I think you have said you would provide more finances if necessary, so why is he not buying the players? Is Wenger too stubborn or is Kroenke preventing him from doing that, why did they not take the chance to buy Fabregas when they could?

USMANOV: I like Arsene for his principles. But principles are sort of restriction. And restrictions are always lost possibilities. That's why sometimes coaches even without principles became the coaches of great teams. And some coaches with principles loose because some positions in team are vacant because of ethical, moral or personal views. Does he have money or not? There is officially money in the club. How does he spend them - this decision investors have left with him. I wish them victories, because their victories are the victories of investors, including myself, and of great Arsenal fans, which deserve these victories.

GC: Would you like to see him go out in the January transfer window and spend in the defensive mid-field, that appears to be lacking, if you look at the recent game against Swansea or other teams that have beaten Arsenal or drawn with them recently?

USMANOV: No, I never try to teach the coach. This is a prerogative, in the financial respect, of the controlling investor, because nobody is consulting with us, and the manager of the club. Nobody inform me about this and this question is esoteric. And I don't like to answer unreal question as I respect you very much.

GC: Everybody can have an opinion on the team, even someone with such a significant...

USMANOV: My opinion, and I tell it openly, - we need to strengthen every position to play on the level of such teams in UK as Chelsea and Manchester City, in Europe like Real, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bavaria and other clubs.

GC: You still have this significant stake, you still have no board seat so much as I am aware.

USMANOV: I no need this board seat until I take a solution in the numbers.

GC: Does the board have any reason to fear you? Is there any reason that the board should be warming to you and meet you on this issue?

USMANOV: There has been so much speculation about this. The board is responsible for everything in the club. I have a very good relationship with the chairman and other people, and I wish them success, but I have never sought a place there. Nobody can ban me from being an Arsenal fan and take away my right as the second biggest investor in the great English club, of which I am proud of. I have no plans apart from wishing lots of successes to the Arsenal club, no contradictions, but always express my opinion. I know sport pretty well and respect all on the club, including Kroenke, who has a substantial experience in sport. But we also have knowledge of sport and have investment in volleyball, basketball…

GC: Just to be very clear here, if the stake became available for you to become the majority shareholder, you would still buy it today and you are never going to sell your stake to Mr. Kroenke?

USMANOV: I don't discuss certain business plans. Mr Kroenke has said repeatedly that he is happy with his investment and considers Arsenal club as a good business. I am happy with this and will also consider my investment as successful. And I don't see today any other perspectives.

- ends -

For more information contact:
Hugo Foulds, Director of Communications, EMEA
CNBC
t: +44 (0)20 7653 9398
e: hugo.foulds@cnbc.com