Arsenal lay claim to nearly 37 million total followers on social media platforms, worldwide. Interspersed among those millions of supporters and followers, naturally, are a few extremely wealthy people. Like Aliko Dangote, for example, the richest man in Africa.
The Nigerian sugar, flour, and soon-to-be oil magnate is a long time fan of Arsenal who nearly purchased Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith's ownership shares -- which represented a 15.9% total stake of the club -- back in 2010, before Bracewell-Smith took the Board's recommendation of instead selling them to Stan Kroenke, a move that helped make the American the majority shareholder of the club.
Now Dangote's back in the news today as he's opened up about one day going back in with an offer for complete and total Arsenal ownership that "the owners won’t want to resist," but only after he's done investing in an £16 billion oil refinery:
"We have $16 billion-worth of investments in the next few years," he said. "Right now I want to take my own business to a certain level. Once I finish on that trajectory, then maybe" an offer [for Arsenal shares] will follow.
Before we go on, let's make something clear: Dangote will not only have to convince Kroenke to sell all of his shares of Arsenal, he will also have to get convince our favorite Uzbekistani, Alisher Usmanov, to sell, as well. While not diminishing the enormity of his financial successes in the past, the odds Dangote maneuvers around both of these hurdles is somewhere between "hell no" and "lolnope." There's a reason why Dangote wants to buy Arsenal, and there's tens of billions of reasons why Kroenke and Usmanov won't entertain selling their shares.
Beyond this specific story lies the dirty little secret everyone with pockets lined with never-ending piles of paper with monarchs and dead presidents printed on them knows, and that's investing in the English Premier League -- especially clubs with the type of historical, sturdy financial foundations Arsenal's built upon -- is one of the safest ways to turn a couple billion into tens of billions. This prevalent thought existed well before the league struck their now-infamous TV deals with Sky and BT a couple months ago.
Take this one factoid from the BBC: currently, Burnley, having only been promoted to the Premier League this past season after being out of the competition since the 2009-10 season, is one of the top 40 richest clubs in the world, and they're worth more than Ajax. Further, all twenty clubs that make up in the EPL right now fall within the top 40; fourteen of the top 30 wealthiest clubs in the world are current participants of the EPL. It's not due to Burnley's illustrious history (far from it). It has everything to do with TV money.
The numbers highlighted above are all before the £5.13 billion domestic TV deal with Sky and BT starts up in 2016-17, and, coincidentally, the US TV rights are starting to be renegotiated when the NBC deal expires at the end of the 2015-16 season. The US EPL deal with NBC is currently the third-biggest foreign TV deal, at $250m (following Thailand's $320m deal, and Singapore's $297m deal), but the new US TV deal has been pegged to rise exponentially when negotations start to begin as early as this spring with a bevy of new and familiar suitors. NBC surely understands this, knowing they're getting more viewership on average, per match, from their $250m deal spread over three years than they are their NHL deal -- a deal in which they spend on average $200m per year. All of this TV money, and future TV commitments to the EPL, trickles down to the clubs themselves in ways not seen in any other league in the world, and it's not even close (bolded emphasis mine):
The EPL has yet to negotiate its new international TV deals (which account for 43% of total broadcast revenues) for 2016-19, but if those deals also rise by 70%, the list of the richest teams in Europe is going to be even more dominated by English teams than it already is by 2017.
Assuming a 70% increase in broadcast revenues, the EPL's bottom club will make $160.6 million in TV revenue alone in 2016-17. The top club will make $252.8 million.
For comparison, the 25th-richest team in Europe in 2013-14 made $143.5 million in total revenue. By 2016-17, all 20 teams in the Premier League will make more than that in TV money alone.
In the case of this story, the mounds upon mounds of TV money can be seen as trickling down to the owners, first and foremost.
Aliko Dangote won't be the only billionaire to track down a reporter and offer up grandiose plans of taking over Arsenal. There will be many future Aliko Dangote's, each of them understanding that an initial commitment of a few billion pounds will exponentially increase their investment in ways other industries can't. Stan Kroenke understands this. Alisher Usmanov clearly understands this, as we've seen over the past 3-4 years. And you -- the reader, the fan -- the group caught in the middle of this financial tug-of-war, should understand this the more you see these kind of stories break.