A consortium led by Spotify owner Daniel Ek and including three former Arsenal players is planning a sensational bid to buy the north London club, sources have told ESPN.
Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira are involved in a move that will test the resolve of American owners Kroenke Sports Enterprises, who insisted at a fans forum Thursday that they had “no intention of selling” the club.
Sources have told ESPN that there could be a formal offer tabled within the next two weeks, although it is unclear at this stage what valuation they are placing on Arsenal.
In a message posted on Twitter, Ek said: “As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for @Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring.”
Sources have told ESPN this interest is genuine, but former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini, rumoured to be one member of the consortium, is not part of the group.
Forbes estimates the Gunners are worth just over £2 billion. Ek is worth an estimated £3.4bn and would have little problem raising the funds necessary to buy the club.
Kroenke took full control of Arsenal in August 2018 after buying out rival shareholder Alisher Usmanov in a £550 million deal which valued the club at £1.8bn.
That came just over a year after KSE rejected an offer from Usmanov to sell their stake in the club.
Sources have told ESPN that there were senior figures within KSE who were wavering over whether to support a sale at the time before eventually rejecting the proposal, and it is unclear whether there are any fault lines this time given the wider circumstances.
Around 2,000 fans descended on Emirates Stadium on Friday to voice opposition over Stan Kroenke’s ownership, but those protests are nothing new. Supporters have largely opposed Kroenke’s involvement in the club, ever since he first became involved in 2007 but most notably when taking a controlling stake four years later.
That deal in April 2011 valued the club at £731m, underlining the dramatic growth in football club valuations since then, particularly in the Premier League.
However, COVID-19 has hit football’s finances hard, and a leading reason behind the decision of 12 clubs to try to form a new European Super League was the huge loss of revenues during the pandemic.
Having already posted losses of £47.8m for the 2019-20 season, Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham told supporters last week the Gunners are on course to lose well over £100m this season.
The ESL clubs were due a huge windfall, splitting £3bn in an initial payment before playing for an annual prize fund of £2.66bn, but the proposal was met with government and fan opposition, leaving it on the brink of collapse. Owners have been facing backlash ever since.
Sources with financial backgrounds have suggested to ESPN the Kroenkes could have been looking to join the ESL as the final part of an exit strategy to sell the club.
The proposal’s failure leaves them with no alternative to quickly generate fresh revenues and therefore a sale may theoretically appeal. However, when asked specifically about KSE’s exit strategy last week, Josh Kroenke, the son of Stan Kroenke, said: “I am not willing to answer that question because we have no intention of selling.”
Spotify told ESPN that “we’re not providing any further comment to Daniel’s tweet” while KSE didn’t respond to a request for further information.