Jan 29, 153 days ago

Who Is Alisher Usmanov?

Six years ago, Alisher Usmanov emerged from the world of financial investment, and laid claim to a large chunk of Arsenal Football Club. His desire to eventually own the club outright, and change Arsenal’s course in world football, has been looming ever since.

“[Investing in Arsenal] is dictated by my emotions for the club. Their current situation remains an interesting investment.” - Alisher Usmanov

In 2007, Alisher Usmanov purchased 14.58% of all Arsenal shares from David Dein, then swiftly increased his stake to 23%. Today, Red & White Holdings (owned by Usmanov) posses 29.72% of all Arsenal shares, making them the second largest shareholders after Kroenke Sports Enterprises.

Alisher Usmanov’s desire to become the majority shareholder of Arsenal is no secret. Most recently in fact, he stated that he was ready to invest in more Arsenal shares, and that he was eager to use his money & business expertise to elevate Arsenal.

Usmanov’s intelligently timed & carefully worded public statements have sparked large sections of the Arsenal fan base to rally behind him, for without doubt, if he were to take over, he would heavily invest in terms of transfer budgets & player wages.

However, do any of us really know who Alisher Usmanov is?

Understanding Usmanov

Alisher Usmanov was born in 1953 in the town of Chust, Uzbekistan. He was an accomplished fencer in his youth, but was also academically gifted. In 1976 he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations with a degree in International Law. In 1997 he graduated from the Financial Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation with a degree in banking.

His entrepreneurial spirit was kindled in 1986, when he began his own plastic bag manufacturing company, undercutting his competitors and making a small fortune in the process. Over the years, Usmanov shifted from one industry to the next.

“In 1980, Usmanov and a friend were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud & embezzlement. He served six years.”

His riches were accrued via lumber, mining, metals & investments in many industries throughout the world. He is the general director of Gazprom, and the founder of Metalloinvest. He has a stake in large internet & telecommunication companies including Facebook & MegaFon. To cut a long story short, Mr Usmanov is absolutely rolling in it.

In fact, according to Forbes, as of March 2012, Mr Usmanov is currently the 28th richest man in the world - with a net worth of $18.1 Billion.

However, Alisher Usmanov’s past is not entirely a money-making fairytale. In 1980, Usmanov and a friend were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud & embezzlement. He served six years in prison, but years later, the Uzbek Supreme Court had ruled that the case raised against him had been ‘trumped up’.

In November 2012, it was reported that Alisher Usmanov had hired London-based public relations (PR) firm RLM Finsbury to edit his article on Wikipedia, removing the mention of alleged “free speech” libel claims against bloggers, and details of a Soviet-era criminal conviction (the fraud & embezzlement sentencing) which was later overturned by the Supreme Court, along with a description of the disappearance of a former MegaFon shareholder.

So we see, Alisher Usmanov has a colourful past in regard to both financial investments, as well as legal controversies.

Alisher For Arsenal?

We are now entering the sixth year of Alisher Usmanov’s interest in an Arsenal take-over. Two of his most recent public statements were issued immediately after Robin Van Persie’s departure announcement, and now just days before the close of yet another stagnant Arsenal transfer window.

“His public statements on the club are expertly timed to obtain the hearts of Arsenal fans as a potential ‘saviour’. His strategy seems sound, his motives on the other hand, remain obscure.”

Usmanov becoming the majority shareholder undoubtedly has its benefits. An injection of copious amounts of money would certainly revive some short-term success at the very least. But we must also consider the potential negatives. Can Alisher Usmanov be trusted with complete control over the future of Arsenal Football Club? Simply baying for more money is tempting, but the club’s future must also be considered.

We now know that Alisher Usmanov has a long history of successful business investments, as well as a heavy brush with the law. He admits that he sees Arsenal as a good business opportunity, yet at the same time, the oligarch speaks of the Gunners as though he were an average fan from the stands, reflecting the opinions of the majority.

His public statements on the club are expertly timed, causing as much distress for the Arsenal Board as possible, and to obtain the hearts of Arsenal fans as a potential ‘saviour’. His strategy seems sound, his motives on the other hand, remain obscure.

What are your thought on Alisher Usmanov’s desire to take over Arsenal? Share your views in the comments section below.

  • Aussie Gooner Dave

    The difference between AU & SK is that AU seems to love the club. I have never heard SK talk directly to the supporters and he seems to perpetuate the rumour that he in it to double his investment.

    • theclockend

      Thats very true. As I said, Usmanov talks about the club like a normal fan. However, I can’t help but ask, is his ‘love’ genuine, or is it a facade to win over the fans and make his investment easier? It’s a tough one.

  • WestLondonGoon

    Whilst no one can be exactly sure of Usmanov’s reasons for getting involved with the club, but a very astute businessman he certainly is. His obvious wealth would allow him to clear any remaining stadium debt with the stroke of a pen, but the same could also be said of Kroenke, but silent Stan prefers to withdraw money from the club rather than invest in it. This is what Stan and Ivan refer to as their self-sustaining business model, allowing them to draw huge amounts of money from the club whilst investing not a cent of their own.
    Usmanov believes in profit, but believes in profits as a result of success in business, and the Arsenal’s business is football. Out of the two, it would seem as if the Russian would be the better bet for the future progress of the club.

    • theclockend

      You’re right that Usmanov & Stan have different ideas of how to invest in Arsenal. Stan prefers the current option of withdrawing (relatively) small amounts on a regular basis. My only concern is that Usmanov will be far more willing to heavily invest, thus putting Arsenal in a severe amount of debt for the foreseeable future. As you pointed out though, nobody truly knows his motives. But his quote on Arsenal being an ‘interestting investment’ speaks volumes for me.

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