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Arsenal’s Usmanov Pays $1.5 Million for Shares, Nears 30% Stake

July 7 (Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal’s second-largest stockholder, spent 952,000 pounds ($1.5 million) to buy 68 more shares in the North London-based soccer team and edge closer to a 30 percent holding.

The purchase from an individual stockholder yesterday, at 14,000 pounds a share, comes after the close of an offer Usmanov made to Arsenal shareholders at the same price in May. The purchase was announced on website of the Plus exchange, where Arsenal is listed.

The price was higher than the 11,750-pound offer that majority owner Stan Kroenke made after buying about 30 percent of the club’s stock from former directors Nina Bracewell-Smith and Danny Fiszman. Usmanov has increased his stake to more than 29 percent from 27.4 percent since making his share offer. Kroenke holds about 67 percent.

A 30 percent stake would give Usmanov the same access to management accounts as any Arsenal director. Usmanov, who hasn’t been given a seat on the Premier League team’s board, has criticized the club for not spending more money on strengthening the squad. His offer to underwrite a rights offer of shares was rejected by the club in July 2009.

Kroenke didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

He and Usmanov have been battling for control of Arsenal, a 13-time English league champion. Usmanov told Bloomberg News he’s not willing to sell his shares to the American, who has interests in a range of U.S. sports teams including the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams and basketball’s Denver Nuggets.

Usmanov said Kroenke has declined to meet with him and discuss his plans for the club. Arsenal supporters have started to complain about a lack of investment in a team that hasn’t won a trophy since 2005.

Usmanov first took a stake in the club in 2007, when he bought 15 percent for 75 million pounds from former board member David Dein.

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

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

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