Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke Says He Doesn’t Understand Criticism of Glazers

Arsenal’s controlling shareholder Stan Kroenke said he can’t understand Manchester United supporters’ criticism of the Red Devils’ owners, who’ve led the club as it won four of the last five Premier League titles.

“If I was a fan of that club I would sit there and go ‘Wow,’” the American investor told reporters yesterday after visiting Arsenal’s training ground outside London. “Because how could you do it any better? That’s what I would say.”

The Florida-based Glazer family bought Manchester United in a 790 million-pound ($1.3 billion) leveraged buyout in 2005 and the team’s increased debt has brought fan criticism, including the hanging in effigy of family patriarch Malcolm Glazer. Kroenke, who owns 67 percent of Arsenal, promised not to use debt to pay for his takeover of the London soccer club.

United has won its third European Cup as well as twice finishing as the Champions League runner-up during the Glazer ownership. Revenue also doubled to more than 300 million pounds. At the same time, the club has paid more than 500 million pounds in interest and other costs linked to their takeover, angering supporters and even leading to questions in the U.K. Parliament.

“Maybe I am saying too much but I think they ought to think a little bit about who invests in these clubs,” said Kroenke, who also owns the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets and the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. “In the States, you would never get this dialogue that you and I are having. He took money out of the club. So what?”

Jerry Buss

Kroenke cited U.S. owners, such as Jerry Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers, who make money from investments in basketball franchises. The Lakers have won 10 NBA titles under Buss’s ownership.

“Did the Lakers win anything?,” Kroenke said. “Well, yeah, they did. How big’s their revenue? Pretty darn good.”

Kroenke has been in London since last week and watched Arsenal rally to win 5-3 at Chelsea in its last match as team captain Robin Van Persie scored three goals. The Gunners are facing pressure from supporters to get Van Persie to sign a new contract after the club sold midfielder Samir Nasri to Manchester City. Nasri had a year left on his contract and could’ve left for free at the end of this season. Previous captain Cesc Fabregas also quit to join boyhood team Barcelona.

While Fabregas departed for a “personal circumstance,” Kroenke said the “other player departed for money.”

Abu Dhabi Sheikh

Manchester City is bankrolled by an Abu Dhabi sheikh who’s spent more than 500 million pounds on talent like Nasri since buying the team in 2008. U.K. media reported that Nasri’s wages had doubled after his move. Though he declined to comment directly about Van Persie’s contract, Kroenke said Arsenal would continue to invest with “intelligence”.

“You’ve got one year left on a players’ contract, you’ve got a large sum of money being offered, can you employ those resources better than you could had you not taken the money, taken a chance on losing the guy for nothing in a year or perhaps overpaying for him now and having less resources later?” he said. “That’s how I would see the evaluation.”

Arsenal hasn’t won a trophy in six years. The board rejected an offer from Russian metals magnate Alisher Usmanov, the club’s second-largest shareholder, to underwrite a share issue to recruit players. Kroenke, flanked by Gunners Chief Executive Officer Ivan Gazidis, said winning without breaking the bank would continue to be Arsenal’s aim.

“I would be much more proud if all our leagues were developed with the idea that you are competing on the basis of intellect and work and effort instead of just simply ‘I am going to throw dollars against the wall,’” Kroenke said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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