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Sunday February 17, 2008

Russian billionaire Usmanov increases stake in Arsenal


LONDON: Red and White Holdings Limited have increased their shareholding in Arsenal to over 24 percent, a statement released on their behalf to the London Stock Exchange said here Friday.

The company, whose chairman is David Dein, the former Arsenal vice-chairman, is owned by Russian metals billionaire Alisher Usmanov and his business associate Farhad Moshiri, a London-based investor.

Their new purchase still left Red and White some six percent short of the minimum 30 percent stake that would require them to launch a formal takeover bid under Stock Exchange rules.

However, Friday’s increase, according to a spokeswoman for the company, still left Red and White behind Arsenal director Daniel Fiszman, who owns 24.11 percent of the Gunners’ shares, as the largest sole stakeholder in the club.

Red and White was formed in August 2007 following the initial sale of Dein’s 14.5 percent stake in the north London club stock £75mil. By October they had increased their stake to 23 percent.

Usmanov’s taking a stake in Arsenal led to a ‘lock-down’ agreement between the other members of the Gunners board who said they would not sell shares that might, if they fell into other hands, lead to a a takeover of the club.

But the current lock-down agreement expires in April although the present board do have an option to extend it.

Usmanov’s interest in British football follows in the footsteps of oil billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of north London club Arsenal’s capital rivals Chelsea.

Arsenal, currently top of the Premier League table by five points from Manchester United, played the English champions in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford yesterday.

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