Arsenal's Russian backer says he's a fan

The Russian businessman who's bought a 14.5% stake in Arsenal football club says he's a genuine supporter of the English team. Alisher Usmanov, who acquired the stake through Red and White Holdings, an investment company he co-owns, also said he was a big

“I've been a fan of Arsenal for around eight years, and I think that the team has the best manager in the English Premiership – Arsene Wenger. But this acquisition is not a strategic or political investment, it's a portfolio investment. Arsenal as a business venture was clearly underestimated. I have plans to boost my stake, because I think its price will grow and will soon reach a good level. The club has everything to gain from this,” Alisher Usmanov explained.

Some say Usmanov may have plans to boost audiences by screening Arsenal's matches to fans. 

Arsenal is one of the most successful clubs in English football, and the acquisition is the latest in a whole series of foreign takeovers of British clubs, one of the most famous being Roman Abramovich’s buyout of Chelsea.

Alisher Usmanov
Alisher Usmanov

The latest sale has filled Arsenal fans with contradictory emotions. On the one hand, they regret the club is going into foreign hands. As they say, it’s quite worrying that soon all the big English clubs will be owned by rich foreigners. On the other hand, they say, the idea of the traditionally low-spending Arsenal being backed by a Russian billionaire is quite appealing. Most of all, they hope the investor has been chosen wisely.

However, Alisher Usmanov hinted to Russia Today that he will be looking to increase his stake in the club.

“This purchase means you can profit from your hobby. It will allow us to earn and enjoy the game. If the market conditions and the cost of shares are acceptable we could increase our stake in Arsenal. But only when we own 25%, will we have any influence on the future of this great club. What we do, we do for several reasons – to become co-owners of a great club, to be useful to the club, and of course to increase the value of our assets. I think Arsene Wenger is a genius coach and he spends little money on his genius. Other coaches ask huge amounts of money from their owners to fulfill their talent. Unfortunately he's not my employee, it's not for me to decide on his future,” he said.

In 1976 Alisher Usmanov gained an international law degree from the Moscow State University of International Relations. He first entered the world of business in the early 1980s becoming vice president of a joint Uzbek-Belgian corporation. Since then he has built up an impressive range of assets. Alisher Usmanov is the 18th richest man in Russia and number 278 in Forbes Magazine's list of the world's richest people. Red and White Holdings is co-owned by Usmanov and London-based investor Farhad Moshiri. Director General of the Russian company Gazprominvestholding, Mr Usmanov has  major interests in energy, metals and timber. His media assets include Russia’s main business newspaper, Kommersant, a 75% stake in one of Russia’s versions of MTV, Muz TV, as well as a 50% stake in the Russian sports channel, 7 TV.

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