SBD/October 26, 2012/Franchises

EPL Arsenal Owner Faces Critics At Shareholders Meeting, Defends Club Management

Kroenke began investing in Arsenal in '07
EPL club Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke "defended his running of Arsenal in the face of heated opposition by fans at Thursday's AGM, where questions were raised about whether the club was being run more for profit than sporting gains," according to Amy Lawrence of the GUARDIAN. Kroenke, CEO Ivan Gazidis and Chair Peter Hill-Wood were "all heckled at the meeting as they justified Arsenal's financial strategy and long-term vision despite the failure to win silverware" since '05. It is the first time "since the American sports mogul began to invest in the club in 2007 that he has publicly given any indication of his priorities for Arsenal." Kroenke said, "I have never put debt on the club, I have never said in any meeting that money wasn't available." The meeting was "tetchy enough" for club manager Arsene Wenger to "call for unity." Questions from the floor included one about the "bonus paid to Gazidis." Gazidis predicted that in two years "prospects will look considerably different from Arsenal's perspective, with the effects of financial fair play and the upcoming commercial deals which will be renewed in 2014." He said, "The landscape of football is moving in our direction." But the message "was not received with overwhelming enthusiasm" (GUARDIAN, 10/26).

NOT SHOWING RESPECT? In London, Gary Jacob notes Wenger was "applauded, but not even he could employ enough charm to placate a number of disgruntled shareholders and protect his board, as he has done in the past." Kroenke looked "shell-shocked at being heckled over his failure to answer two questions." The "irritation and impatience" of Hill-Wood "erupted when he ended the meeting at Emirates Stadium by telling fans: 'Thank you for your interest in our affairs.'" It was "among a number of patronising and disrespectful comments from Hill-Wood that only served to antagonise fans" (LONDON TIMES, 10/26). ESPN.com's Miguel Delaney wrote the board "had to justify the direction of the club in the face of what was probably the most fractious atmosphere ever seen at the event" (ESPN.com, 10/25).

STAYING COMMITTED: In London, Jack Pitt-Brooke notes Kroenke "was still committed to winning trophies after an acrimonious annual general meeting at which he was confronted by supporters, accusing him of not meeting fan groups and criticising him for failing to rule out paying a dividend to investors" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/26).

THE NEW DEAL: In London, Matt Scott notes Arsenal's contract with Nike "expires in 2013-14 and Adidas’s interest is set to hugely improve" the $21M a year the club will earn from it. Arsenal fans buy "800,000 shirts every year, the third biggest number in Nike’s portfolio after Manchester United and Barcelona." It is "understood Adidas is hoping to renew an association with Arsenal that ended in the mid-1990s after taking the strategic decision to 'own' London." adidas is "also believed to be set to conclude a deal with Fulham" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/26).
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