Arsenal dismiss takeover reports

15-09-2006

Arsenal have denied media reports suggesting they are in preliminary negotiations with a mystery consortium regarding a possible takeover bid.

The Sun newspaper suggests today that Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky is interested in taking over the north London club and that "unofficial talks" with Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood were held in June.

However, the north London club, valued at about £350 million, issued a statement to the Stock Exchange this afternoon categorically refuting the claims.

"Arsenal Holdings plc has noted the speculation in the media that it has received an approach or has been in talks which may lead to an offer for the company.

"The board of directors confirms that it is not and has not been in any such talks and has not received any such approach," the statement said.

The media speculation referred to quoted a source as saying: "There is an awful lot of activity going on behind the scenes at the moment, some serious discussions."

It also claimed that it was "no coincidence that Boris Berezovsky, the football-loving Russian billionaire exiled in Britain" had been in attendance at a recent match at Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium.

The speculation gained momentum due to the proliferating trend of foreign billionaires taking over English football clubs. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is widely seen as the leading figure in this trend but his lead has been followed by those who have taken over Manchester United, Portsmouth, Aston Villa and reportedly West Ham.

Berezovsky, 60, is one of Russia's most notorious oligarchs, having been close to former president Boris Yeltsin and then exiled from the country when Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. He received political asylum in the United Kingdom in October 2003.

His billions were reportedly made via stakes in state companies including car giant AutoVAZ, airline Aeroflot and several oil properties organised in Sibneft, now called Gazpromneft and previously owned by Abramovich.

Berezovsky worked with the Chelsea owner for a time and although the pair fell out, they are now rumoured to be in partnership with Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili of MSI, the firm believed to be attempting to take over West Ham.


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