Silent Stanley To Join Premier Goldrush

With a bid for Arsenal FC, Stanley Kroenke is poised to be the next U.S. sports businessman to buy into English soccer.

A week after the London club ousted vice chairman and 14.4 percent shareholder David Dein, apparently for being in cahoots with Kroenke, the Colorado Rapids soccer team and Denver Nuggets basketball team owner was reportedly increasing his own 12.2 percent stake.

If Dein really has (if only temporarily) ended his 23-year association with the club to throw in his lot with Kroenke, their combined share is nearly 27 percent, only 2 percent short of the point that London Stock Exchange rules would require a formal takeover bid.

In the last year, Malcom Glazer has bought control of Manchester United, Randy Lerner has scooped up Aston Villa, and Thomas Hicks and George Gillett have taken over Liverpool.

The main stumbling block for Kroenke – known as Silent Stanley because the media struggles to get comment from him – following the other American sporting businessmen down the English Premiership gold trail is that Arsenal chairman Dennis Hill-Wood, diamond dealer Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who own about 46 percent of the club, are determined to maintain control.

Arsenal, which has won three English Premier titles and four FA Cups in the last 10 years (including "the double" in 1998), has just moved into its new Emirates Stadium, but it’s struggling to compete for new players against such cash-rich clubs as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

The U.K. media has focused on how boardroom unrest and the possibility of a takeover affects the position of team manager Arsene Wenger, a close friend of Dein.

But the successful Frenchman is remaining unusually quiet and only saying that he also has a good relationship with the rest of the board. He’s also under contract until 2008.

"I will have the last laugh," The Sunday Times quoted Dein as saying. The comment has prompted the rest of the media to speculate that Kroenke may be making overtures to the smaller, mainly private investors who control the remaining 26 percent of the club.

Hill-Wood, Fiszman and Lady Bracewell-Smith are believed to be doing the same rounds, only needing 5 percent of the small investors’ stock to increase their share to a controlling 51 percent.