Daniel Ek, Spotify co-founder and CEO, expressed interest in purchasing Arsenal in a tweet a few days ago. The Swedish billionaire tech entrepreneur said that should the Kroenke’s be interested in selling, he’d be interested in buying the club he’s supported since childhood. Ek is expected to give an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, April 28th to publicly discuss his interest for the first time.
The Spotify CEO has reportedly teamed up with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Patrick Vieira to bolster his bid to takeover the club. Ek is worth around £3B (compared to Stan Kroenke’s £6B) but with partners and financing would likely be able to afford Arsenal, which Forbes has valued slightly north of £2B.
He’s not going to just fork over a lump sum, cash payment — that’s not how transactions of this size are conducted. He likely wouldn’t buy all the Kroenke’s shares either, although that’s just my guess. I’d expect his ownership group to first buy a controlling share, which in this case would be 50.1% or more of Kroenke’s shares because he’s the sole owner, and then buy more over time.
But there’s been a critical piece missing in the discourse about Ek’s interest — for a club to change hands, you need a willing buyer and a willing seller. Despite the negative fallout from the Super League, Josh Kroenke reiterated in the fan forum that they were not interested in selling the club at this time.
[UPDATE 4/27, 1:15 PM] Josh Kroenke has told Arsenal staff that Kroenke Sports Enterprises will not be selling the club and will make funds available in the summer window to strengthen the squad, per ESPN UK.
[UPDATE 4/27, 1:40 PM] Stan and Josh Kroenke have issued a public statement that they “remain 100% committed to Arsenal and are not selling any stake in the Club. We have not received any offer and we will not entertain any offer.”
And let’s face it, Stan Kroenke weathered moving the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles. He’s shown complete disregard for fan sentiment before. The #KroenkeOut protests, while admirable, likely barely register for Arsenal’s owner.
Despite the financial hardships brought on by COVID-19, Arsenal (and top-level football clubs in general) remain a relatively safe and stable investment in which billionaires can park their money and let it grow. Per football.london, the value of the club has risen 23% in the last two years alone, and the Kroenke’s have likely doubled their investment since buying in. That strikes me as an asset worth holding onto. Stan Kroenke will sell Arsenal when it makes financial sense for him, and right now, I see little reason to sell.
The best I can do for you is a solitary report (that I can’t even find again) that the Kroenke’s would “listen to offers” north of £2B. The only report I saw that put a number on a possible bid from Daniel Ek had it at £1.8B. On that admittedly flimsy evidence, they wouldn’t even get in the door.
The spectacular failure of the Super League may have shifted the calculus ever so slightly, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the current media buzz about an Arsenal sale is anything more than that — media buzz. Wealthy people have expressed interest in buying the club in the past and nothing has come of it.
I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. And just to throw a bit more cold water on things, I’d caution against the “we don’t want THIS billionaire, we want THAT billionaire” mentality. There is no guarantee a new ownership group would be any better than the current one. The Kroenke’s have their flaws to be sure, but I’d rate them right around average as far as billionaire sports owners go. So you’ve got a 50-50 shot that the new guys would be worse. Are you taking those odds?