Usmanov to raise Arsenal stake

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MOSCOW, December 22 – Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov said Monday that he intended to raise his holding in Arsenal by acquiring an additional three percent of the English football club's capital.Usmanov said he and his partners at Red and White Holdings currently held a 26.9 percent stake in Arsenal but that they wanted to raise that share to 29.9 percent to ensure they controlled what he termed a "blocking stake".

Both Usmanov and the US tycoon Stan Korenke — who beside 29.98 percent of Arsenal also owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche — have been gradually building up their holdings in the north London giant.

A mandatory takeover bid of Arsenal would be triggered if either owner controlled more than 30 percent of the shares.

Usmanov fanned the flames of the takeover speculation by saying that he could not rule out one day owning a larger share. But he said that his main goal now focused on a "blocking stake".

"Today, we have 27 percent," the Interfax news agency quoted Usmanov as saying. "Our objective is to bring that up to a blocking stake of 29.9 percent.

"And from there, we will just keep looking," he added. "You can never tell about what happens in life."

The "blocking stake" would not in fact enable Usmanov to keep his US rival from winning control of Arsenal.

But it could give him a broader say in the company’s management and potentially enable him to derail some of the majority shareholder’s decisions.

The club’s other two shareholders are DD Fiszman, the non-executive director who holds a 16.11-percent stake, and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who controls 15.9 percent of the shares.

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