Dan­gote bids for stake in Ar­se­nal FC

Lesotho Times - - Business -

NEW YORK — Africa’s rich­est man, Aliko Dan­gote, said he still wants to buy English Pre­mier League soc­cer team Ar­se­nal even af­ter he was re­buffed by its own­ers in 2010.

Nige­ria’s Dan­gote, an Ar­se­nal fan worth $15.7 bil­lion (about M170 bil­lion) and the 67th rich­est per­son in the world, ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg Bil­lion­aires In­dex, dis­cussed buy­ing a stake in the club five years ago be­fore talks with the own­ers fell through, he said. Since then his wealth has grown more than sev­en­fold.

“I still hope, one day at the right price, that I’ll buy the team,” Mr Dan­gote (58) said in an in­ter­view as he trav­elled on a plane owned by one of his com­pa­nies be­tween the Ethiopian cap­i­tal Ad­dis Ababa and the Nige­rian com­mer­cial hub of La­gos on 1 May.

“I might buy it, not at a ridicu­lous price but a price that the own­ers won’t want to re­sist. I know my strat­egy.”

Ar­se­nal is one of Eng­land’s most suc­cess­ful clubs, hav­ing won 13 top flight league ti­tles in the coun­try, the most af­ter Manch­ester United and Liver­pool. Ar­se­nal Hold­ings Plc., the owner, trades on the ICAP Se­cu­ri­ties & De­riv­a­tives Ex­change, or ISDX, and is val­ued at $1.49 bil­lion.

A suc­cess­ful bid would make Mr Dan­gote the first African owner of a club in a league where bil­lion­aires in­clud­ing Rus­sia’s Ro­man Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea, and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Man­sour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who con­trols Manch­ester City, have ac­quired teams.

Stan Kroenke, worth $5.6 bil­lion and owner of the Na­tional Foot­ball League’s St Louis Rams, holds 67 per­cent of Ar­se­nal, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg. Red & White Sec Ltd., con­trolled by Uzbek bil­lion­aire Alisher Us­manov and Farhad Moshiri, owns 30 per­cent.

Ce­ment, Gas Dan Tolhurst, a spokesman for the Lon­don­based club, de­clined to com­ment as did Rollo Head, a spokesman for Us­manov in Lon­don. Tomago Collins, a spokesman for Kroenke in Den­ver, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to emails re­quest­ing com­ment.

Mr Dan­gote has in­ter­ests in sugar and flour and con­trols Dan­gote Ce­ment Plc, Nige­ria’s big­gest pub­licly traded com­pany. He is in­vest­ing $11 bil­lion in a 650 000 bar­rela-day oil re­fin­ery near La­gos and as much as $2.5 bil­lion in gas pipe­lines run­ning to the city from Nige­ria’s oil-rich Niger River delta re­gion.

His wealth has fallen by $2.7 bil­lion this year, the sixth-most glob­ally, ac­cord­ing to the Bil­lion­aires In­dex.

Mr Dan­gote, who ranks 55th on the in­dex, said he’s too busy with ex­ist­ing projects to mount a bid now.

“We have $16 bil­lion-worth of in­vest­ments in the next few years,” he said. “Right now I want to take my own busi­ness to a cer­tain level. Once I fin­ish on that tra­jec­tory, then maybe” an of­fer will fol­low.

In 2014, Mr Dan­gote was named Forbes Africa Per­son of the Year 2014, beat­ing sev­eral es­teemed can­di­dates to the hon­our.

Other nom­i­nees in­cluded South Africa’s Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela, Nige­rian au­thor Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie, Di­rec­tor­Gen­eral of the SEC Arunma Oteh and Pres­i­dent of the African Devel­op­ment Bank Don­ald Kaberuka.

Limited Suc­cess Most English Pre­mier League matches are broad­cast live in Nige­ria, Africa’s most pop­u­lous coun­try, by Su­pers­port, a satel­lite tele­vi­sion chan­nel owned by South Africa’s Naspers Ltd.

Ar­se­nal won the FA Cup, Eng­land’s main knock­out tour­na­ment, last year, its first ma­jor tro­phy since 2005, and is in the fi­nal of the same tour­na­ment this year. Over the last decade Lon­don ri­vals Chelsea have won the English league four times as well as the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons League and sev­eral other tro­phies.

Arsene Wenger, who has man­aged Ar­se­nal since 1996, has been crit­i­cized by fans in­clud­ing Rwanda’s Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame for the team’s limited suc­cess in the last decade. Mr Dan­gote said he is of­ten too ner­vous to watch their games. The team beat Hull 3-1 on Mon­day with two goals from Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez.

While Mr Wenger has man­aged the club well from a fi­nan­cial stand­point, he “needs to change his style a bit,” said Mr Dan­gote. “They need new di­rec­tion.”

— Bloomberg

Aliko Dan­gote is Africa's rich­est man.

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