Here’s another extract from The Athletic. It relates to the Kroenke family and Arsenal. The article itself is much longer and interesting but I’m afraid you’ll have to sign up to the newspaper to read it all. I don’t want my subscription cancelled or a telling off.
(Contributing writers: James McNicholas, David Ornstein and Amy Lawrence)
It was the day before the transfer deadline. The Los Angeles Rams were trailing the New York Giants by three to six at half-time, when Stan and Josh Kroenke broke off from watching the game to join a conference call. During a telephone conversation with trusted associate and Arsenal board member Tim Lewis, the owners authorised the club to trigger the €50 million release clause for Thomas Partey.
Such is life when you sit at the summit of a multi-billion empire spanning five sports and two continents. The Athletic has been told that the Kroenkes consider the Rams and Arsenal the twin jewels in the KSE crown. Some Arsenal supporters will take comfort from the fact the owners stepped out of a Rams game to attend to urgent transfer business. For others, the Kroenkes’ association with Arsenal still doesn’t feel right.
Stan Kroenke’s initial investment in 2007 was met with icy hostility, and the relationship with some fans has not thawed as his stake has increased. Until Kroenke arrived on the scene, Arsenal was a club that spoke not of “owners” but “custodians”. For many supporters, the Kroenkes are indelibly linked to a change in Arsenal’s traditions and culture, and a gradual slide towards being a corporation — just another “franchise” in KSE’s hefty portfolio.
The accusation is that a lack of focus has allowed Arsenal to drift. In the decade prior to Stan’s first involvement, Arsenal won three Premier League titles. They have not won one since, and it was 2014 before they won a trophy — the FA Cup. The club have slipped from Champions League certainties to Europa League regulars. At times, the club has appeared directionless. Is it possible to keep a firm hand on the tiller when you are overseeing an entire fleet?
There have been banners, hashtags and full-on protests. It has not been uncommon to hear the Arsenal fans tunefully urging Stan Kroenke to “get out of our club”.
Though some feel calling the owners passive is wrong. “It is unfair to say the Kroenkes are not in touch enough,” says one source. “They care about it, but in a way that care comes through the two or three people they trust 100 per cent. Then it’s very important that these people confirm their trust is well deserved, that they take care of the club as if they were the owners themselves.”
The club’s response to the pandemic has raised new concerns, with many supporters enraged by redundancies. Stan Kroenke is estimated by Forbes to be worth $10 billion, yet Gunnersaurus’ salary has been deemed unaffordable. Arsenal’s books for 2013-14 and 2014-15 revealed £3 million had been paid to KSE for “strategic and advisory services”, a sum which cannot possibly be worth to Kroenke what it cost him in goodwill.
But then we come to Partey, and Stan and Josh Kroenke finding the time to ensure Arsenal got the midfielder they needed. They found the money, too. Given the ongoing losses Arsenal are suffering as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no way they could have found the cash reserves required to buy out Partey’s contract without significant owner support. At the end of a summer in which Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) had helped the club restructure their stadium debt, the outlay for Partey felt like another significant statement of intent.
The Kroenkes have long suggested their intention was to invest once they took Arsenal private as 100 per cent owners. The two years since they completed their takeover have not brought stability — it has been a period of tumultuous change. The year 2020 alone has seen Arsenal weighing the glory of an FA Cup win against the financial fallout from COVID-19. There have been wage cuts, redundancies and a substantial restructuring. Throughout, Arsenal’s position has been that those changes were designed to put the club in a position to strengthen the first team — and they undoubtedly emerged from the transfer window with a stronger squad.
This then is an appropriate time to take stock — to explore the nature of KSE’s involvement in Arsenal, and cast some light on the personalities behind the corporation. The Athletic has spent the past weeks speaking to those who know the Kroenkes best in order to paint a picture of Arsenal’s owners. Our findings include:
- Stan Kroenke has attended Arsenal matches more regularly than reported.
- KSE have a small network of trusted executives they use to monitor activity at Arsenal.
- At no point during the Wenger reign did the ownership turn down a direct request for funds from the manager.
- The decision to sign Nicolas Pepe was made at a BBQ at Josh Kroenke’s Los Angeles home. The ownership made certain financial guarantees in case the club was not able to sell players to fund the deal.
- The players’ pay cut was not a mandate from the ownership. Executives made a presentation to the squad using the image and analogy of a sleeping bear.
- Tim Lewis is now a “boots-on-the-ground” presence for the Kroenkes, has visited London Colney to observe training and was the man to tell Raul Sanllehi he was fired.
- In the summer transfer window, Arsenal attempted to use instalment-based payment structures to land two of their top three targets from Partey, Houssem Aouar and Jorginho.
- The Arsenal ownership are prepared to make further investments in the team, with Dominik Szoboszlai already under discussion with hierarchy and technical staff.
Three weeks after the transfer deadline passed, Arsenal won a league match at Old Trafford for the first time since Stan first bought into the club, 13 years ago. The Arsenal owner, 73, is understood to have been particularly delighted by Partey’s commanding midfield performance.
He would have had some idea of what to expect from the Ghanaian. As part of the recruitment process, technical director Edu walked the ownership through step-by-step on how Partey, along with other potential signings, would fit into Mikel Arteta’s tactical plans. While KSE place huge trust in their executive teams, when it comes to the biggest decisions “Silent” Stan Kroenke remains the man with the final say.
The Athletic also reported yesterday that Dani Ceballos and David Luiz had a ‘handbags at dawn’ moment during training. A hefty tackle made by Ceballos on Luiz was the cause apparently. Just as it was when the Spaniard and Eddie Nketiah clashed.
Perhaps emotions are simply running high. At least that’s all I hope it is as Mikel Arteta doesn’t need in-house squabbles adding to his troubles.
See you in the comments guys.