Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 12:06 UK

Arsenal announce jump in profits

Highbury Holdings view of the apartments at Arsenal's former stadium
Arsenal continue to pay off a loan for redevelopment of Highbury

Arsenal have disclosed their profits last season jumped to 37m ($64.4m) but they also had a rise in debts.

The news comes at a time when one of the club's key shareholders, US sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, has become a non-executive director of the club.

Despite failing to win any silverware, the club's income rose by 11% to 223m thanks to more lucrative TV deals.

Its debts rose by 12% to 318m as it borrowed more to pay for redeveloping its old Highbury stadium.

But the club said those debts would fall this coming year as the development of the North London stadium, called Highbury Square, is completed and the 680 flats are eventually sold.

Takeover?

The most eye-catching development is the appointment of the billionaire US sports entrepreneur as a non-executive director at Arsenal.

The board said it had invited Mr Kroenke, who owns a 12% stake in the club, to join the club because of his experience in managing sporting businesses and to help in the further commercial development of the club.

His firm, Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), owns the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team and Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids.

When he bought his stake in Arsenal in early 2007 it was thought he was preparing to launch a takeover.

That possibility led to the club's former vice-chairman David Dein being forced out because of his apparent support for such a move.

Dein then sold his shareholding to the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, whose investment vehicle Red and White Holdings now controls a 23% stake in Arsenal.

To thwart any hostile takeover, the remaining Arsenal directors agreed to a "lock-down" - which means they cannot sell their shares to anyone before April 2009 other than a limited number of people, such as family members.

After that, until October 2012, they cannot sell to anyone else without giving the other directors the first option to buy.

Mr Kroenke is not party to that agreement but said he would not raise his own stake in the club beyond 29.9% at any time in the next 12 months, unless it was with the agreement of the Arsenal board or if the club was the subject of a takeover bid.

BBC sports editor Mihir Bose said: "Arsenal are feeling they should broadcast the fact that the financial world may be in meltdown but they are fine.

"The elephant in the room is Usmanov, the Uzbek businessman. The question is what will he do? Will he bid for the club? That still remains a question mark."

Stadium

The Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, said the club was in a strong financial position which vindicated its decision to move to the new Emirates stadium two seasons ago.

Emirates Stadium has taken our football revenues to a new level
Peter Hill-Wood

"We are committed to operating the Club as a business which is financially self-sustaining," he said.

"This is clearly demonstrated having achieved our second highest ever pre-tax profit of 36.7m.

"Over the last two seasons Emirates Stadium has taken our football revenues to a new level, but we cannot be complacent," he added.

The Gunner's chairman admitted that the sale of flats at Highbury might be affected by the current downturn in the UK property market, which he said was being "closely monitored".

But he explained that the club's finances did not depend on this future income.

"The final profits and cash to be released to the club on completion of these property developments has not been budgeted by the club and will be treated as a bonus when received - accordingly, there is no commitment to use any such profits and cash at any specific time for any specific purpose."

Initial income will however be used to pay off the club's bank loans.


SEE ALSO
Ownership rules concern FA chief
12 Sep 08 |  Football
Edelman makes shock Arsenal exit
01 May 08 |  Arsenal
Edelman dismisses Usmanov threat
30 Sep 07 |  Arsenal
Arsenal meet with Usmanov firm
28 Sep 07 |  Arsenal
Usmanov buys more Arsenal shares
28 Sep 07 |  Business
Arsenal bullish over 200m income
24 Sep 07 |  Arsenal
Usmanov ups the ante at Arsenal
18 Sep 07 |  Arsenal

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