If you’ve ever been to Wembley you’ll know that it is no place for a football club. It’s a great place to build a stadium that is relatively accessible and the venue is up there among the best as far as seating, visibility, and all that but while it’s a great place for a stadium it’s no place for a club.
A club needs it’s history to be near by so that supporters can walk by the famous old ground on the way in or the way out of a game, look at the old Art Deco facade, and feel the presence of the millions who partied on those famous streets after cup glory. A club needs a station named after it. A club needs, well, our club needed to stay in Islington.
But our club also needed to get out of Highbury. Not just from an amenities standpoint but also to accommodate the fan growth that Arsenal had undergone and keep up with Europe’s best.
Ken Friar attributes the fact that Arsenal built Ashburton Grove in Islington rather than leased Wembley from the FA to Danny Fiszman, who sadly passed away yesterday after a long battle with illness. Friar called Fiszman a great friend and tireless worker for the Arsenal cause. It turned out that it was his life’s work to not only give Arsenal the stadium which could be filled with her ambitions but also to keep that stadium in North London.
It is also with the passing of Danny Fiszman that questions of why Stan Kroenke had to bid so suddenly and in the middle of a season have finally been answered. But one last question remains: surely, Danny Fiszman could have sold his shares to the highest bidder. Or even better, allowed his estate to sell them after his passing which could have given his heirs even more value and absolved him of any blame in the ensuing dog fight. But instead, it was almost his dying wish to pass the torch to Stan Kroenke.
Can Mr. Kroenke live up to that selection?
But what’s a billionaire really worth?
I wish people would stop talking about how much Usmanov and Kroenke are “worth” as if you could ask them for their debit card and check their account balance at the local ATM.
I blame Forbes and their “rich list” that they put out every year. It’s really not as simple as people like to think — especially since both are still heavily invested in high growth areas.
For example, Usmanov went from being worth $9bn in 2008 to worth just $1.6bn in 2009. In fact, he’s had several huge swings in his valuation. His first came when he doubled from $2.6bn in 2006 to $5.5bn in 2007 largely due to the fact that the Russian government, uhhh, encouraged him to buy Russian Newspaper Kommersant after Boris Berezovsky fled the country. It’s also important to note that during the economic collapse of 2009 Usmanov’s value plummeted to ‘just’ $1.6bn and in fact his most stable holding, Mettaloinvest, needed to be bailed out by the Russian government to the tune of $3bn after his gamble on Norilsk Nickle lost $1.9bn.
What’s he supposedly worth now? $17.7bn. That’s up an astonishing $10.5bn in just one year. He could buy the entire Premier League with the amount of money his net worth supposedly went up just last year. This happened because, we are told, he took a flyer on Facebook and his newspaper and mobile phone companies have taken off.
Meanwhile, little ole Enoch Stanley Kroenke has just been plodding along, buying sports teams and building little media and real estate empires from them. As a result, Kroenke’s net worth has gone from $1.1bn in 2002 to a high of $3bn in 2009 and back down to $2.6bn in 2011. His fortunes have been heavily subsidized by the way American sports work, which is to say that he is part of several monopolies which have locked out or are threatening to lock out their players in order to force the players to meet their demands.
The other factor to consider is that Kroenke’s wife is one of the many minor heirs to the Walmart empire and is worth $3.4bn herself. I don’t know how their family finances work and as such it’s a factor that we can rule out with one small caveat; Stan Kroenke doesn’t need any money from his investments to live lavishly for the rest of his days.
My impression is that the two men are wildly different. Usmanov is a very successful gambler who has been and still is heavily involved with the Russian government and who has recently diversified his portfolio and been even more successful. The other is a successful long-time sports investor who has capitalized on the sports structure in the USA to slowly buy bigger and more valuable sports teams.
But how much are they worth? To me, they are only worth what they can bring to Arsenal. We can argue over which one of the two will “bring more to value” to the club, what that means, and how we will define it.
Feel free to do so below.