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Some rich dude wants to buy Arsenal

I mean, I want things, too.


Life is all about desire. We want a nicer house, we want new clothes, we want a new job, etc. Some desires are more primal than others - right now, I desire food, because I am hungry - but at the root of many choices we in the developed world have to make, it’s desire, not necessity, that drives what happens.

For the longest time, Arsenal has been an object of desire among a certain very small subset of the population. Stan Kroenke, of course, owns Arsenal now, but before he assumed full control, his minority partner, Alisher Usmanov, desired to take control of Arsenal away from Stan and run the club himself. We all know how well that turned out - Kroenke won that battle and the war, by first buying out all the shares of Arsenal and then by taking it private, so now he’s in full control.

That ownership does not seem to be a problem for one Aliko Dangote, who until yesterday I had never heard of at all. Apparently Mr. Dangote is Nigeria’s and Africa’s richest man, who made his fortune with the Dangote Group, which is not a fantastic coincidence but the name of his company. Started as a commodities trading firm, the Group now deals in food processing (Dangote Group is one of the biggest sugar companies in Nigeria), cement manufacturing, and freight.

So Mr. Dangote has built himself quite a pile over the years - he’s the 30th richest person in the world according to Forbes. When someone gets that rich, they look for toys to play with. Since most of the cool space toys are taken by American billionaires, most billionaires in other parts of the world tend to want to invest in sports teams, because that’s something they can put their name on that builds a lot of goodwill (unless you’re Stan Kroenke).

More to the point of this piece, Dangote has apparently set his sights on buying Arsenal. On the surface, I see nothing wrong with that - he’s not a criminal like Usmanov, and he’d have to be in a coma to be less involved in Arsenal than Kroenke. There are a couple things in his way, however.

He himself says he wants to “finish some projects” before turning his attention to Arsenal. According to this article, one of those projects is the completion of one of the world’s largest oil refineries, which obviously is no small undertaking. The other projects are....shrug? He’s not saying, but building something at that scale is bound to occupy most of his attention and a lot of his resources.

But that’s not even the biggest obstacle to any sale. That obstacle, as with any potential buyer, is Stan Kroenke.

As mentioned, Kroenke is 100% owner of Arsenal, which is at this point a private company. What that means in practice is that if he doesn’t want to sell, he won’t. Literally nothing can compel him to, short of him being convicted of some sort of crime that requires he divest of his assets. Dangote could hang £5 billion in front of Stan, and if Stan’s not interested, the sale won’t happen. And every indication we’ve been given in the last couple years is that Stan isn’t interested and won’t be for some time.

Aliko Dangote, then, can make all the noises he wants about buying Arsenal next year after he crosses stuff off his to-do list. And while Dangote does in fact have more money than Stan ($10.6B as opposed to Stan’s mere $9.7B), Stan doesn’t actually need to sell Arsenal to raise capital - he’s doing just fine.

So, I wouldn’t hold your breath for anything to come of this, at all - Stan’s got all the cards here, and he shows no inclination towards wanting to play a single one of them. Dangote will probably have to find another toy to buy.