Kroenke increases Arsenal stake

LONDON - American businessman Stan Kroenke has moved within a fraction of launching a mandatory takeover bid for Premier League club Arsenal.

LONDON - American businessman Stan Kroenke has moved within a fraction of launching a mandatory takeover bid for Premier League club Arsenal.

Kroenke, the London club's largest shareholder, increased his stake to 29,6percent, only 0,3percent away from the amount needed to force a takeover. He previously held a 28,9percent stake.

The Denver-based businessman's latest acquisition of 427 shares cost him about £3,6million (R47million).

At Arsenal's annual general meeting late last month, Kroenke avoided questions about his takeover plans, instead allowing chairperson Peter Hill-Wood to answer for him. In Britain, individuals or groups wishing to make a takeover bid must be unambiguous with their intentions or face a six-month penalty before being able to launch the bid.

The Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST), a fans' group that has been seeking a meeting with Kroenke, yesterday stressed that it opposes a full takeover.

"While the AST welcomes Stan Kroenke's involvement, we agree with the sentiment of Peter Hill-Wood's statement at the recent AGM that there is no need for any shareholder to launch a takeover of the club," it said.

"The AST believes in plurality of ownership."

Americans own four other Premier League clubs: Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Sunderland.

If Arsenal are taken over by Kroenke - or even Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, the club's second-largest shareholder - they would become the 11th club in the 20-team Premier League under foreign ownership. - Sapa-AP

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