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Arsenal And The Dangote Dream

Aliko Dangote
Aliko Dangote

BEVERLY HILLS, February 24, (THEWILL) – Nigerian billionaire and foremost business magnate Aliko Dangote has not been reticent about his ambition to own the English Premier League’s north London club Arsenal. It is a subject that has been on the Arsenal fanbase radar for a couple of years and has been the cause of wild expectations and sunken hopes of joining the high-spending EPL class of clubs.

Even though the billionaire has been very overt about his intention for the club, there has been a recent lull in the conversation around his takeover of controlling shares currently held by American businessman Stan Kroenke. One reason for it being out of the spotlight is the current plague of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the world.

Many investment minded business types have looked away from football club takeovers with other bigger returns opportunities higher on their agenda especially given the financial implications around football due largely of the pandemic and reflected in financial strains for some otherwise big clubs globally, with Barcelona as a standard example.

That notwithstanding, a potential takeover at Arsenal could be on the table in the not too distant future. The rationale for the optimism among Arsenal faithfuls is that turning around the fortunes of the Emirates club remains a long-term Dangote objective, according to the billionaire himself.

Dangote admitted, in June 2015, that he had the interest and desire to buy Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s 15.9% stake way back in 2011 when they became available, but did not act quickly enough and Kroenke snapped up the stake.

“There were a couple of us who were rushing to buy, and we thought with the prices then, the people who were interested in selling were trying to go for a kill. We backtracked, because we were very busy doing other things, especially our industrialisation,” Dangote explained.

“When we get this refinery on track, I will have enough time and enough resources to pay what they are asking for.”

He elaborated on his big ideas for the club: “It’s not about buying Arsenal and just continuing with business as usual.

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“It’s about buying Arsenal and turning it around. I’ve run a very successful business and I think I can also run a very successful team. Right now, with what we’re facing, over $20 billion of projects, I cannot do both.

“There’s no doubt [I’ll buy Arsenal], it’s not a problem of money

“The issue is that we have more challenging headwinds. I need to get those out the way first and start having tailwinds. Then I’ll focus on this.”

The media is abuzz with the Dangote-Arsenal involvement again because of what Africa’s foremost billionaire said in August 2017 about his plans after the completion of one of his most ambitious and capital-intensive projects: the Dangote Oil Refinery, billed to be one of the biggest refineries: “I don’t want to go after Arsenal until I deliver the refinery. Once I deliver, I will go after Arsenal.”

That promised was reiterated in January, 2020 to point to the man’s consistency and laid down targets.

“It is a team that yes I would like to buy some day, but what I keep saying is we have $20billion worth of projects and that’s what I really want to concentrate on. I’m trying to finish building the company and then after we finish, maybe some time in 2021 we can.

“I’m not buying Arsenal right now, I’m buying Arsenal when I finish all these projects, because I’m trying to take the company to the next level.”

The 63-year-old is currently the 162nd richest man in the world according to the Forbes Rich List, with a net worth of $11.5 billion and the time for the fulfillment of his Arsenal team promise is edging ever closer by the day.

The Africa Report, an English-language monthly magazine that focuses on African politics and economics, put the estimated date for the refinery to become operational at “early 2021”. The implication is that Dangote can commence those all-important takeover talks with Kroenke soon, with the end of June a likely switch over of ownership time.

The Premier League is already home to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and Dangote will be joining an exclusive class when he effects the takeover. “Football London” detailed the wealth of some of those who will become the Nigerian billionaire’s rivals when the takeover is completed.

John Henry
Club: Liverpool
Wealth: $2.8billion (£2.2billion)

Liverpool’s chairman has played the waiting game for nearly a decade but his patience paid off as the club lifted the Champions League last season.

A Premier League crown is set to follow this season for Liverpool and Henry, whose wealth of $2.8billion per Forbes puts him well outside the riches of other Premier League club owners.

Henry’s Fenway Sports Group has loaned Liverpool money in the past that helped expand part of Anfield stadium, but his legacy will be seizing control of the club from Tom Hicks and George Gillett and ending a dismal three-year spell for the club.

Guo Guangchang
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wealth: $7.2billion (£5.5billion)

The backing of Guangchang, chairman of the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, has helped propel Wolverhampton Wanderers from a Championship club to European football in only three years.

Guangchang’s fortune and clout helped Wolves assemble a squad with Champions League pedigree while still in the Championship.

He has not handed the club a blank cheque in the way some of his rivals have but his financial backing has steered the club to success, including within a whisker of the FA Cup final last season.

Stan Kroenke
Club: Arsenal
Wealth: $9.7billion (£7.5billion)

Arsenal’s current owner is a little behind Dangote in the billionaire stakes, with a wealth of roughly $9.7billion according to Forbes.

A collector of sports teams, the American also controls NBA side Denver Nuggets, NHL team Colorado Avalanche and, the jewel in the crown, NFL major the L.A. Rams.

Kroenke has been Arsenal’s sole owner since September 2018 but has angered fans with his refusal to invest and speak openly with the once public club. His son Josh, who sits on Arsenal’s board alongside Stan, has attempted to cool relations.

Roman Abramovich
Club: Chelsea
Wealth: $12.6billion (£9.7billion)

The man largely responsible for the upsurge in Premier League transfers beginning in the mid-2000s, Abramovich is ranked by Forbes as the 107th richest man in the world.

The Russian has underwritten Chelsea’s success for nearly two decades, handing the club £247million last season to underpin his continued enthusiasm for investment.

Despite this rumours swirled around Abramovich’s future at Chelsea in 2019 especially in light of problems renewing his visa with the British government.

Other billionaires, including Brit Sir Jim Ratcliffe, have been linked as future owners of the Blues.

Sheikh Mansour
Club: Manchester City
Wealth: $20-30billion (£15.4-23billion)

The net worth of Manchester City’s owner varies wildly but it’s fair to say he’s the richest man in the Premier League, being born into the United Arab Emirates royal family. Having taken control of Manchester City back in 2008, Mansour’s largesse – an investment of some £1.3billion over the previous decade.

Last season marked a change of direction for Mansour and City, as the club were not injected with any fresh capital from their owners and subsided on their own revenues.

With manager Pep Guardiola almost certain to demand a rebuild this summer, Mansour may well provide backing once again.

The majority of Arsenal fans, who have lived long enough to see the pedigree of their favourite club laid waste due to a cash-strapped period that saw them unwillingly sell off their best stars to stay economically afloat, while big-money investors flushed their rivals with cash, cannot wait for their fortunes to improve with a Dangote takeover.