On Wednesday David Dein resigned from the Arsenal board, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the rest of the board. The remaining board members, led by chairman Peter Hill-Wood, have entered an agreement not to sell their shares in the club for at lest 12 months, and have reassured fans that there is a strong relationship between the remaining board members and Arsene Wenger.
It seems that the main reason for Dein’s decision to leave relates to recent share purchase activity by Stan Kroenke, the US billionaire. Kroenke recently purchased ITV’s 9.9% stake in the club, and has been purchasing small amounts of shares that have come onto the market so that he now holds around 11% of the club. Dein appears to be sympathetic to Kroenke’s apparent wish to at least invest in the club, and seems to have fallen out with the rest of the board over this. Peter Hill-Wood has stated of Kroenke and his overtures that:
“we don’t need his money and we don’t want his sort.”
It seems that there was a breakdown in trust between himself and David Dein when Dein’s support of Kroenke became apparent.
The repurcussions of this event are not fully clear at this stage. Dein was responsible for bringing Wenger to the club, and has been responsible for all the transfer negotiations (once Wenger had identified his targets). He has been closely involved with the footballing side of the club’s operations, and has been a driving force behind Arsenal’s recent success – though he disagreed with the building of the new stadium, preferring a move to Wembley as a lower cost, lower risk venture. Dein and Wenger had a very good working relationship, and Wenger described the events as a “sad day for Arsenal Football Club”. Despite reassurances from Wenger and the remaining board members, there is clearly a question mark over Wenger’s future at Arsenal. His contract expires in May 2008, and there has been no official talks with him yet about extending it – though the desire has been expressed by the club several times already.
These events herald potentially turbulent times at Arsenal, full of uncertainty and rumour. Dein and Kroenke may join forces to attempt a hostile takeover, and chief shareholder Danny Fizmann may be ready to sell his 15,000 shares, having finished overseeing the clubs construction of and move to the new stadium, as speculated by Myles Palmer at Arsenal News Review. The approaching summer could be full of takeover speculation and uncertainty – not a good backdrop to trying to attract top talent to the club. If it drags on till next year, it would be even worse, since Wenger’s contract renewal would be added to the mix. Not a scenario that would help settle the players and keep their minds on the pitch, or encourage them to stay. BBC Sport have a good article covering both the background and the potential implications of these events.
Personally, I’m ambivalent about a takeover, though soimewhat inclined to view it positively. Kroenke would bring deeper pockets and a good business sense to the table, though potentially jeopardising the character of the club. However, that character has been gradually eroding anyway, and may be turing into no more than a fond memory.