Arsenal Says Club Not for Sale After Reports of Gulf Bid

Arsenal said majority owner Stan Kroenke is committed to the 13-time English soccer champion for the long term and wouldn’t consider a sale following newspaper reports that a Gulf-based group may make an offer for the club.

The group is planning a record 1.5 billion-pound ($2.3 billion) bid for the London team, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sun reported yesterday.

The unidentified group comprises investors from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and is poised to begin negotiations, the Telegraph reported, citing a person it didn’t identify. It would be the biggest takeover of a sports team, and double the 790 million pounds the U.S.-based Glazer family paid for Manchester United in 2005.

In a statement, an Arsenal spokesman said there has been no contact from any consortium regarding a takeover and that Kroenke is committed to Arsenal for the long term and has no intention of selling.

Arsenal’s board and team manager Arsene Wenger have come under pressure from supporters following the sale of last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie to Manchester United and poor performances this season. Van Persie refused to sign a new contract, saying he didn’t agree with the board’s strategy.

Some fans have accused the club of not spending enough on top talent to compete with rivals such as Premier League leader United, Manchester City and Chelsea, teams all owned by billionaires. Arsenal, which hasn’t won a trophy since 2005, also has faced protests for charging the highest priced tickets in the league without restoring success. The newspaper reports said the Middle East investment group would cut ticket prices.

Derby Loss

Arsenal lost 2-1 at north London rival Tottenham yesterday and now trails third-place Spurs by seven points. The Gunners have 47 points in fifth place and a top-four finish is needed for Champions League qualification. Arsenal has played in Europe’s elite club competition for 15 straight years.

Kroenke, an American sports mogul who also owns the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams and the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, took control of Arsenal in 2011 after acquiring stakes owned by two former board members. Those purchases valued the club at 731 million pounds, less than half the amount the Gulf-based group would offer according to the newspaper reports.

The group plans to make a cash offer that’s worth more than twice what the club was valued at two years ago, according to the reports. The offer would be for all of the 62,217 issued shares and would include about 830 million pounds for Kroenke, the Telegraph said.

Kroenke had been vying for control with metals billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who retains a 29.96 percent stake. Usmanov has been critical of the way the club is run. The Russian in July wrote an open letter criticizing the club for failing to keep van Persie and for lack of investment.

“We have not been approached by any party, regarding the possible sale of our stake in Arsenal,” Usmanov said today in an e-mail. “Should there appear any such bidder, my answer will be as it has always been: we have no intention to sell our Arsenal shares. I am a big fan, and this is a strategic investment for us.”

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