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Football Business and Politics

Club Ownership

Project: Football Business and Politics
Open-Content project managed by KJF, mtuck

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Chelsea FC owner Ken Bates agrees to sell the club to Russian oil and aluminum mogul Roman Abramovich for £140m. £80m of the money will be spent paying down debts Chelsea has recently accrued. £59.3m will be used to buy shares in the parent company, Chelsea Village, which are valued at a mere 35p each. Bates bought the club for £1 in 1982. The deal is the biggest in British football history. A statement issued for Abramovich pledges that he will invest in the team. [BBC, 7/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Chelsea F.C., Roman Abramovich, Ken Bates

Category Tags: England, Club Ownership

Serbian-American businessman Milan Mandaric sells Portsmouth FC to Franco-Russian businessman Alexandre Gaydamak for £32 million. [London Times, 9/15/2008; Daily Mail, 9/23/2008] The sale will later become controversial as speculation appears suggesting that Gaydamak’s father Arkadi, wanted for questioning in France over gunrunning during the Angolan Civil War, is the real owner. [Daily Mail, 9/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Milan Mandaric, Alexandre Gaydamak, Portsmouth F.C., Arkadi Gaydamak

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Randy Lerner, the American owner-in-waiting of Aston Villa, increases his potential shareholding in the football club to 85.5 percent. Lerner was set to own 59.69 percent of the club after his conditional £62.2m takeover offer in August, and now seems likely to take full control. However, he must still reach 90 percent stakeholder support by 18 September, until which time Villa’s existing board of directors remains in place. [BBC, 9/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Aston Villa, Randolph D. (“Randy”) Lerner

Category Tags: Club Ownership

David Dein leaves Arsenal’s board of directors over a dispute on the football club’s future direction. Dein, who owns 14.5 percent of shares, wants US investor Stanley Kroenke to take control of the club, but this proposal does not find sufficient support among the other board members, and Dein departs. [BBC, 8/31/2007]

Entity Tags: Arsenal F.C., Stanley Kroenke, David Dein

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra loges a £81.6m formal takeover bid for football club Manchester City. The offer is made through a company called UK Sports Investments, a vehicle indirectly controlled by Shinawatra, his son, and his daughter. [BBC, 6/21/2007] Since he was overthrown by a military coup last September, Shinawatra has been dogged by allegations covering assorted instances of corruption, human rights abuses, and running death squads as a part of his government’s war on drugs. [Daily Mail, 6/22/2007] Thai prosecutors have already filed corruption charges and frozen some of his assets. [BBC, 6/21/2007]

Entity Tags: Manchester City F.C., Thaksin Shinawatra, UK Sports Investments

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra completes his takeover of Manchester City. Shinawatra, who was allegedly involved in corruption, human rights abuses, and death squads in his native Thailand, made a formal offer the previous month (see June 21, 2007). Shinawatra now owns 74.03 percent of shares through his UK Sports Investments vehicle, very close to the 75 percent he needs to take the football club off the stock market. The previous shareholders, including former chairman Francis Lee and the Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB, were wary of selling to Shinawatra because of the allegations against him, but have been reassured. The only bar to Shinawatra assuming full control of the club is that he now has to pass the Premier League’s “fit and proper person” test (see Shortly After July 6, 2007). [BBC, 7/6/2007]

Entity Tags: Francis Lee, British Sky Broadcasting Group, Thaksin Shinawatra, UK Sports Investments, Manchester City F.C.

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra passes the Premier League’s “fit and proper person” test and receives the green light to take full control of football club Manchester City. Shinawatra has already purchased a majority of shares (see July 6, 2007) and this is the last hurdle his takeover has to cross. Allegations that Shinawatra was involved in various instances of corruption, human rights abuses, and death squads (see June 21, 2007) apparently do not prevent him from passing the test. On July 11, one civil servant at the Foreign Office (FCO) will send an e-mail, later obtained by the Telegraph by Freedom of Information Act request, saying that the Premier League thinks that Shinawatra would probably pass the test on that day, and asking if the FCO has any information it could share on him. The FCO also says that the League never follows up on the request, although the League comments: “What we were told by the government was, as these were only allegations, they could offer no comment or advice that was not already in the public domain. Had they offered any form of briefing we would, of course, have accepted.” [Daily Telegraph, 3/13/2008]

Entity Tags: Thaksin Shinawatra, Manchester City F.C., Premier League, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Category Tags: England, Club Ownership

Alisher Usmanov, a Uzbek-Russian businessman of dubious repute (see September 2, 2007), becomes a leading shareholder in Arsenal. Together with his associate Farhad Moshiri, a London-based Iranian, Usmanov purchases a 14.5 percent interest in the football club through the company Red & White Holdings for £75m. The stake is purchased from David Dein, who left the club’s board in April when he fell out with other directors over the lack of foreign investment in Arsenal (see April 2007). Dein was previously close to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is now reported to approve of the transaction. The deal makes Red & White Holdings the third largest shareholder in Arsenal, behind Danny Fiszman (24.11 percent) and Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9 percent). The US businessman Stan Kroenke holds 12.9 percent; nobody else has more than 5 percent. [BBC, 8/31/2007]

Entity Tags: David Dein, Danny Fiszman, Stanley Kroenke, Alisher Usmanov, Farhad Moshiri, Nina Bracewell-Smith, Red & White Holdings

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray accuses new Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov (see Shortly Before August 31, 2007) of a string of crimes in a piece posted to his blog. [Craig Murray, 9/2/2007] Murray learned of Uzbek affairs during his time as ambassador in 2002-2004, but was removed from his position under a cloud after he complained too loudly about the use of torture in the “war on terror.” [Grey, 2007, pp. 152-169] In a no-holds-barred post entitled “Alisher Usmanov, Potential Arsenal Chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker, and Accused Rapist,” Murray sets out Usmanov’s many alleged sins, including his activities as an underworld boss, influence peddling with Uzbekistan’s ruling clan, bribery, and a “particularly atrocious rape.” [Craig Murray, 9/2/2007]

Entity Tags: Craig Murray, Alisher Usmanov

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-Russian businessman who has just purchased an interest in the London football club Arsenal (see Shortly Before August 31, 2007), uses the law firm Schillings to shut down discussion of his controversial past on the Internet. Shortly after Usmanov became an Arsenal shareholder, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray published a blog post saying that Usmanov had committed numerous crimes (see September 2, 2007). Schillings now contacts several independent Arsenal supporters’ websites and blogs to make them remove postings referencing Murray’s allegations. The law firm tells them that repeating the allegations is “false, indefensible, and grossly defamatory.” Most sites comply. Although Schillings forces Murray’s webhost to remove the post, it does not contact Murray himself. [Guardian, 9/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal F.C., Craig Murray, Schillings

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov temporarily shuts down the website of Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for major of London, in a dispute between Usmanov and former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray. Usmanov has numerous other websites shut down as well. Following the purchase of an interest in Arsenal by Usmanov, an Uzbek-Russian businessman (see Shortly Before August 31, 2007), Murray made numerous allegations against him (see September 2, 2007), and Usmanov used the law firm Schillings in an attempt to shut down discussion of them on the Internet (see Shortly After September 2, 2007). Schillings now pressures Murray’s webhost, Fasthosts Internet, to act against Murray, and it responds by cutting off services to Murray and numerous other bloggers who simply share some technical services with him, even though they had not written about Usmanov or been the subject of a complaint by him. Johnson calls the action “a serious erosion of free speech,” adding: “This is London, not Uzbekistan.… It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out on the say-so of some tycoon. We live in a world where Internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech.” Bob Piper, another affected blogger and local Labour Party politician in Birmingham, calls the situation “outrageous.” [Guardian, 9/20/2007]

Entity Tags: Craig Murray, Alisher Usmanov, Boris Johnson, Fasthosts Internet Ltd, Arsenal F.C., Robert Piper, Schillings

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Alisher Usmanov, a Uzbek-Russian businessman of dubious repute (see September 2, 2007) who now owns a 24 percent stake in Arsenal (see Shortly Before August 31, 2007), says he only plans to increase his interest by a small amount. According to Usmanov, the investment vehicle Red & White Holdings, of which he is a co-owner, wants a blocking stake in the football club, which would be 25 percent plus one share. This would give it a veto on major club issues. [Reuters, 2/27/2008]

Entity Tags: Alisher Usmanov, Red & White Holdings, Arsenal F.C.

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

An Israeli newspaper publishes a list of the assets of fugitive gun runner Arkadi Gaydamak indicating that they include Portsmouth FC. The claim is made in an article called “Look What I’ve Got,” published by the tabloid Yedioth Ahronot. [London Times, 9/15/2008] The asset listing includes “Soccer Abroad: Portsmouth FC, in England’s top league… managed by Gaydamak’s son, Sacha [Alexandre].” [Guardian, 9/23/2008] The article’s publication follows claims that Arkadi is in financial difficulties and is to show that his position remains strong. Previously, the football club reported it was owned by Arkadi’s son, Alexandre. The difference is significant because Arkadi may not pass the Premier League’s “fit and proper persons” test due to the warrant for his arrest on gunrunning charges. [London Times, 9/15/2008] The league will commence an investigation into the claims (see September 22, 2008), but drop it when Portsmouth assures it Alexandre is the real owner (see September 23, 2008).

Entity Tags: Portsmouth F.C., Alexandre Gaydamak, Arkadi Gaydamak

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

The Premier League launches an investigation into the ownership of Portsmouth FC. The investigation is spurred by an Israeli newspaper article that lists the assets of fugitive Russian-Israeli arms dealer Arkadi Gaydamak, which the paper says include Portsmouth (see (September 8, 2008)). Portsmouth says it is owned by Arkadi’s son Alexandre. The difference is important because Arkadi is wanted in France on gunrunning charges, meaning he may not pass the league’s “fit and proper persons” test for football club owners. [Guardian, 9/23/2008] Portsmouth will soon repeat that Alexandre is the real owner, satisfying the league (see September 23, 2008).

Entity Tags: Portsmouth F.C., Arkadi Gaydamak, Premier League, Alexandre Gaydamak

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

The Premier League announces it is satisfied that Portsmouth FC is not owned by fugitive gun runner Arkadi Gaydamak, but by his son Alexandre. The league had launched an inquiry into the ownership of Portsmouth after a list of Arkadi’s assets—including Portsmouth—appeared in the Israeli press (see (September 8, 2008) and September 22, 2008). As Arkadi is a fugitive from French authorities over gun running charges, he may not pass the Premier League’s “fit and proper persons” test for football club owners. Following the list’s publication, the league contacted Portsmouth to ask who really owned it, and Portsmouth said it was owned by Alexandre, satisfying the league. [Daily Mail, 9/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Alexandre Gaydamak, Arkadi Gaydamak, Portsmouth F.C., Premier League

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Leeds United chairman Ken Bates falsely claims to the Royal Court of Jersey that he jointly owns Forward Sports Fund, the company that owns Leeds. According to Bates, there are two “management shares” in Forward; he has one, whereas the other is held by his financial advisor Patrick Murrin, who is based in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey. Forward is registered in the Cayman Islands, another tax haven. However, it will later emerge that the two “management shares” do not entail ownership of Forward, and Bates does not hold either of them (Murrin has one, and Peter Boatman, a Geneva-based administrator, has the other). Forward is actually owned by the holders of 10,000 shares in it. Bates will correct this statement later in the year, calling it an “error.” It is unclear how Bates, an experienced businessman, came to believe he was the part-owner of a business worth several million pounds, when he apparently has no interest in it. [Guardian, 9/30/2009]

Entity Tags: Leeds United F.C., Ken Bates, Patrick Murrin, Forward Sports Fund, Peter Boatman

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek businessman of dubious repute (see September 2, 2007), increases his interest in Arsenal, an English Premier League football club in North London. Red & White Holdings, of which Usmanov is a co-owner, raises its shareholding to 25 percent, which gives it a veto over major decisions. The company, run by former Arsenal vice chairman David Dein, first bought an interest in Arsenal in 2007 (see Shortly Before August 31, 2007). Red & White Holdings is now the largest shareholder in Arsenal, followed by Danny Fiszman (24.11 percent), Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9 percent), and Stan Kroenke (12.4 percent). Shares in Arsenal are currently changing hands for around £7,500, down from their peak of around £10,500 a year and a half ago. If Usmanov’s interest reaches 30 percent, he will be mandated to launch a takeover bid under Stock Exchange rules. [Times (London), 2/17/2009]

Entity Tags: Danny Fiszman, Arsenal F.C., Stanley Kroenke, Alisher Usmanov, David Dein, Nina Bracewell-Smith, Red & White Holdings

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Arsenal’s board of directors turns down a proposal that the football club raise capital by means of a rights issue. The suggestion was put forward by Red & White Holdings, an investment vehicle co-owned by the controversial Uzbek businessman Alisher Usmanov (see September 2, 2007). Under the plan, all shareholders would be invited to subscribe new shares, but if one or more did not exercise this right, the additional shares would be offered to the other shareholders. Red & White Holdings says that the extra money would be used to repay some of the club’s debt and to finance additional signings of established players. However, club officials suspect this is a ploy to allow Usmanov to increase his stake. In addition, they say the debt is manageable and that they prefer to sign young players, who are cheaper. [Guardian, 7/8/2009]

Entity Tags: Alisher Usmanov, Red & White Holdings, Arsenal F.C.

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Leeds United bans all Guardian reporters from its stadium, Elland Road. The ban is in response to a series of articles written by Guardian columnist David Conn about the mystery of who actually owns Leeds. [Guardian, 10/19/2009] For example, three weeks previously Conn published an article highlighting the fact that the club’s chairman, the controversial Ken Bates, had falsely claimed to own the club (see January 2009). Leeds is owned by Forward Sports Fund, a company registered in the Cayman Islands and administered by the Geneva-based Chateau Fiduciaire. However, the public does not know who owns Forward Sports Fund. According to Conn, the question of Forward’s ownership is important because of the role it played in the club’s insolvency in 2007. [Guardian, 9/30/2009]

Entity Tags: Leeds United F.C., Ken Bates, Forward Sports Fund, Chateau Fiduciaire, The Guardian, David Conn

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

The controversial Russian-Uzbek businessman Alisher Usmanov (see September 2, 2007) increases his stake in English football club Arsenal. The shareholding is held by the investment vehicle Red & White Holdings, of which Usmanov is co-owner, and is now just over 26 percent. This makes Usmanov’s company the second largest shareholder in Arsenal, behind US businessman Stan Kroenke, who now has 29.9 percent. [BBC, 12/11/2009]

Entity Tags: Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal F.C., Red & White Holdings, Stanley Kroenke

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, agrees to buy a majority stake in Malaga football club for €36m from current president Fernando Sanz. “The agreement has already been notified to the Spanish Sports Council and will be completed shortly, given that said public body has provided its verbal approval of the agreement’s terms and conditions,” says the club. Al-Thani, who will also assume the club’s debt, is extremely wealthy and manages a business empire based in the United Arab Emirates, which employs around 3,000 people and operates in more than 30 countries. His interests include hotel chains, shopping centres, mobile phone companies, car dealerships, and a bank. Malaga’s highest ever finish in the Spanish top flight is seventh, and they have been relegated to the second tier frequently. They recently finished 17th out of 20 clubs in Spain’s Premiera Division. Al-Thani comments, “Our goal is to help Malaga take the necessary steps to consolidate its presence in La Liga and to reinforce the excitement and hopes of the supporters.” [Reuters, 6/26/2011]

Entity Tags: Malaga Club de Futbol, Fernando Sanz, Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani

Category Tags: Club Ownership, Spain

The Qatari Investment Authority buys a 70 percent stake in the leading French club Paris St. Germain. The club’s former controlling investor, the US Colony Capital group, retains an interest of nearly 30 percent. The takeover comes after PSG finished fourth in Ligue 1—their highest placing since 2004—and reached the French cup final. [ESPN, 5/31/2011] The investment will be operated by Qatar Sports Investments, an arm of the new owners. [Guardian, 11/22/2011]

Entity Tags: Qatar Sports Investments, Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, Qatari Investment Authority, Colony Capital

Category Tags: Club Ownership

Owners of English Premier League teams from the US and Asia want to end promotion to and relegation from the English Premier League, according to League Managers’ Association chief executive Richard Bevan. Five English clubs are owned by Americans (Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Sunderland), and Manchester City, Chelsea, and Blackburn are also owned by foreigners. “There are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League. If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen,” says Bevan, speaking at the Professional Players Federation conference in London. “You’ll find that with American owners and you’ll find that with some of the Asian owners as well. If you look at sport all around the world and you look at sport owners trying to work out how to invest and make money, you’ll find that most of them like the idea of franchises. If you take, particularly, American owners, without doubt there have been a number of them looking at possibly having more of a franchise situation. That would mean no promotion or relegation. That would obviously not be good news for English football.” According to Bevan the solution is, “You need to make sure that the FA is strong enough to ensure that the principles on which our clubs are run, if I’m an owner coming in, I must recognise and embrace the history, the tradition, the supporters, the community, the philosophy of actually how this club should be operating and not deciding my club should be taken abroad or whatever.” According to the Press Association, such an outcome is unlikely, because, “Even if a two-thirds majority of Premier League clubs voted in favour of abolishing relegation, the move would still be unlikely to come about as the league’s own rules dictate it would also require approval from the FA, which would expect to hear widespread opposition from the rest of the game.” [Press Association (London), 10/17/2011]

Entity Tags: League Managers’ Association, Richard Bevan

Category Tags: Club Ownership, England

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