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English Premiership

Wenger in the dark on Gulf takeover bid

WENGER-MADLONDON, England, March 3 – Arsenal have had no contact over a potential takeover, sources told the Press Association on Sunday, amid reports of a looming record bid by a Gulf consortium.

Reports in British newspapers suggested that an investment group backed by funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were preparing a £1.5 billion ($2.25 billion, 1.75 billion euro) bid for the English Premier League club.

However, sources close to the Gunners’ board told Britain’s PA domestic news agency that there had been no approach — informal or otherwise — to the US owner Stan Kroenke, who has no intention of selling his controlling stake and remains “in it for the long term”.

Kroenke pushed through his £430 million-plus takeover in April 2011, and now holds 66.83 percent of the club, giving him overall control.

Uzbek oil magnate Alisher Usmanov remains Arsenal’s second largest shareholder with a 29.96 percent stake, but does not currently have a seat on the board.

The Sun newspaper said Arsenal shares were currently trading at around £17,000 and the proposed bid would be for £20,000 per share.

If Kroenke accepted the bid, the same offer would be made to Usmanov.

The bid would dwarf the £700 million that the Glazer family paid for Premier League leaders Manchester United.

It also underlines the Gulf interest in Premier League football, with champions Manchester City being owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahayan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.

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The Sunday Telegraph newspaper quoted a source as saying: “Arsenal is in a pivotal position at the moment. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club.”

The newspaper reports suggested that, if successful in a potential takeover, the consortium would help to drive the Gunners back to the top of European football, slash ticket prices and stop the sale of star players such as former captains Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal issued no official response to the reports on their website or Twitter feed.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger, asked about the story after his side’s 2-1 defeat at north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday, insisted he knew nothing about any potential takeover.

“I don’t know anything about it. I heard (the reports) like you,” he said.

“Are we vulnerable to a takeover? You are only vulnerable if you want to sell and you need money.

“That doesn’t concern me at all. It’s down to the owners. Do they want to sell? I don’t know.”

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