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A question for every answer

A question for every answer

In the goldfish bowl world in which major clubs like Arsenal operate snippets of information that would normally pass unnoticed are quickly seized on with many attaching differing views as to their significance.

As the Arsenal PR department issued a very brief statement on Wednesday afternoon advising of some boardroom changes coinciding with the appointment of Ivan Gazidis as Managing Director they must have become aware almost instantly that it invited more questions. The original brief statement was swiftly followed with a more detailed comment from chairman Peter Hill-Wood.

The changes, apart from the election of Gazidis to the board of both Arsenal Holdings plc and Arsenal Football Club, involves Richard Carr, a grandson of former chairman Bracewell-Smith leaving the board of the Holding company but remaining a director of AFC. The significant change is that major shareholder Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, holder of 15.9% of the shares, leaves the board of both companies. The question invited by the first brief statement was how does this effect the lock-down agreement restricting the sale of shares along with other board members which Lady Nina was party to? The unasked question was quickly answered by Peter Hill-Wood in his subsequent statement.

"Lady Nina is no longer representing the Club and therefore is released from the lockdown. However it was created to maintain stability in the Club and those participants are committed to maintaining the ownership structure as it is" he said.

This would seem to put her shares in play but what significance does it really have? The answer is probably less now than had these changes been made before Kroenke joined the board. Prior to his appointment the board along with Lady Nina made up 45.45% of the total shareholding. With her no longer on the board, together with Kroenke`s 12.2% shareholding, the board now represents 41.75%. Along with other 'friendly` shareholders, for example Richard Carr`s (himself a 4.6% shareholder) half sister Lady Sarah Phipps Bagge , yet another member of the Bracewell-Smith dynasty, who holds 2%, the board should still be strong enough to hold control over key decisions. There are also something like 18% of shares held by small investors thought generally to be sympathetic to the concept of multiple ownership.

Whether Lady Nina will now look to sell her shares or not is unclear but it must be a possibility given the changes made. However, the fact that she was willing to co-operate with the existing board in a lock down suggests she is supportive of their long term aims. A thought also echoed by PH-W.

"I don`t know for certain what she wants to do with her shares. I do know that the Bracewell-Smith family have been involved with the Club for many, many years and are great supporters.

'I know that Lady Nina is an advocate of the policies we have been following to make the Club self-sustaining and free from external injections of money. She has certainly been in favour of what we are doing."

No one can say for sure but a best guess would be that a process for shareholder succession is underway and a path carefully plotted with the other major shareholders which doesn`t include ceding control to Russian billionaires.

Hill-Wood also alluded to this objective in his statement on the club website saying "A number of the Board have indicated in the past that they are interested in buying more shares so the future stability of the Club is secure. The Board is very keen to retain control of the Club to ensure that its values and traditions are upheld and live on for many years to come."

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Date:Thursday December 18 2008
Time: 12:44AM

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All this financial stuff leaves my head spinning, but from what I gather the lockdown doesn't actually do anything. If you want to sell you shares you simply quit your position first? But wouldn't you lose your position if you sold your shares? I'm cunfused .... the room is spinning.
18/12/2008 01:57:00
That was my first thought too Rocky. I see no point in the lockdown then,
18/12/2008 05:40:00
Hmmmm wonder if there is a very very rich Arab, sorry middle eastern gentleman looking at us?
18/12/2008 06:24:00
I'm not too concerned- Lady Nina was key in keeping Usmanov out, so even if she is annoyed at the board I'm sure she'll sell to anybody but him. We are the most financially sound club in the league and have, I'm sure, built up a nice nest egg for player purchases if Arsene wants to buy. I have no problem with Arsene's vision but if buying, say, Lionel Messi pushes Diaby or Randall down the pecking order, I'm okay with that too. It's a chicken and egg sort of thing, if you have a good manager. Over the past few years Manure has spent probably twice their real worth on Carrick, Owen, Anderson, Nani, yet they added something to the team and their transfer fees, while seemingly unreasonable, have been paid for by the two league titles and Champs League title winnings. We've spent ***** and won the same. We were unfortunate not to win the title last season- bad calls, bad injuries. If you include Rosicky and Eduardo, at the start of this season we were down five senior players, and we brought in Nasri, Silvestre and Bischoff. Arsene has bought many players in January- Walcott, Adebayor and Reyes come to mind- and I hope he does this coming January because we need reinforcements all over the pitch. If he buys a Flamini-type player who forces Diaby and or Denilson to the bench but lets Cesc go forward more and improves the team, that's okay with me. Cesc has proven to be an amazing player but not like-for-like with Vieira. Beyond that, I think the only two players in the current squad who are better than their peers in the invincibles are Clichy and Sagna. If we are three £20m players away from success or one £60m player away, we should spend it. In North American sports, it doesnt' mater which league or sport, when clubs are close the spend to get the best players to hopefully win a title. Arsenal is that close, they just have to splash some cash on proven superstars to get the trophies.
18/12/2008 06:50:00
elbondo in general i agree with most of your comments, but and its a big but the boss never said he would not buy it was just there were in his opinion no suitable players he could afford or were available. People moan and moan we have no won a trophy for years but in the last few years we have been in touching distance. Most feel this season we will be once again unable to obtain silverware. I prefer to remain with my rose coloured glasses on and say we will.
18/12/2008 07:40:00
Exactly what I asked for Amos. A quick statement from PHW on the impact of Lady Nina's exit. To be honest, it only partially answers the questions. PHW has been in the game a long time and he manages to cover his ass well with this statement. He hasnt spoken to Lady Nina, so at this time, no one knows her intentions. Even though the legality of the lockdown agreement was always under question, atleast it was a statement of intent from the Board, and it quelled the takeover speculation to a large extent. So its purpose worked IMO. Lets hope Lady Nina doesnt cash out soon, but I'm certain there will be constant media speculation on a possible takeover. We'll just have to live with it.
18/12/2008 09:07:00
The lock down was a largely symbolic device designed to send a signal to Usmanov and maybe others that those shares held by the board were acting in concert. It worked in that regard but with Kroenke on board and apparently now acceptable there is less risk if Lady Nina were to sell assuming that's what she wants to do. Providing she is still broadly supportive, and given that she is still part of the Bracewell Smith dynasty who hold a reasonable number of shares through other family members chances are she is, then all should be well.
18/12/2008 09:41:00
As expected, speculation is rife. I read on another blog that there was disagreement at the last Board meeting involving Lady Nina. Apparently, this is part 2 of the transition strategy, whereby Kroenke will takeover the club eventually. That might be possible. Also speculation that Usmanov would sell his shares to Kroenke, which seems the only viable exit route for him. If Kroenke is gong to takeover the club, where is he going to get the money? I'm surprised if Kroenke wasnt affected somewhat by the recession.
18/12/2008 09:46:00
If there was a disagreement in one of the meetings, then isn't there a chance Lady Nina would not want to sell her shares (if she does want to sell) to an other board member. I suppose it depends on who the argument was between. It wouldn't surprise me if someone has been seriously affected by the recession, in which case they will sell to whoever will buy them won't they?
18/12/2008 10:12:00
It's possible that there was a fall out at a board meeting but unlikely that it would have led to such a swift conclusion about board changes and shareholder intentions. It just doesn't work that way. These look like more considered changes that would have needed to have the support of the majority of the board if they were opposed. Lady Nina's stake is probably worth about £80m at current values. That probably wouldn't be too hard for Kroenke to finance. He has turned down the opportunity to buy shares (Dein, Landsdowne Holdings) in the past. That maybe because they came with conditions (Dein) or were priced too high (Lansdowne) so he clearly isn't a buyer under all terms. At the moment Usmanov wouldn't get back what he paid for his shares. If he and Lady Nina are trying to sell at the same time then their combined 40% could be of value to a new bideer if they can get both blocks of shares. On the other hand Lady Nina still has family connections through the other Bracewell-Smiths so is probably, despite any possible discontent, likely not to want to actively undermine the club.
18/12/2008 10:25:00
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