Hill-Wood: Gunners retain heritage

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Arsenal will maintain their "philosophy" and "heritage", according to chairman Peter Hill-Wood - despite changes in the boardroom which are set to reignite takeover speculation.

The departure of major shareholder Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith from the company board was announced on Wednesday night, along with Richard Carr - a director for 27 years - but Carr will remain on the board of the Barclays Premier League club while new chief executive Ivan Gazidis will join both boards on January 1.

Hill-Wood said: "The philosophy of the club remains the same. Our efforts are directed towards stability and making the club successful. Changes of personnel will not alter the directors' view of how we should proceed in the future. All the directors love the club and are committed to maintaining its heritage."

It is, though, what Lady Bracewell-Smith, whose family have a long association with Arsenal, will now do with her significant holding of just under 16% which is sure to be of concern to Gunners fans.

Arsenal are the last remaining member of the Premier League 'big four' to be in British ownership, and the board all signed up to a lockdown agreement meaning the first option on any sale of shares must be given to existing board members until 2012, so as to stave off any potential hostile bid from outside.

However, Hill-Wood could offer no guarantees of where Lady Bracewell-Smith's holding may eventually now end up.

American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, who holds around a 12% stake in the Gunners parent company, accepted the offer to become a non-executive director on the Arsenal board in September as ties with his Kroenke Sports Enterprises group were strengthened, and he could be tempted to invest further.

However, Uzbekistan metals magnate Alisher Usmanov - who bought into Arsenal when he paid former vice-chairman David Dein around £75million for his 14.65% stake - is certainly one likely interested party as his Red & White Holdings company look to increase their holding, which currently stands around 24%. If that were to reach 30%, then under financial legislation, a formal takeover approach would have to be launched.

Hill-Wood added "Acting in the best interests of the club is fundamental to the decisions we take on behalf of Arsenal.

"The directors feel the club's future is positive both on and off the field."

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