The Nigerian multi-billionaire and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, caused a stir recently when he announced during a BBC interview that he wants to buy Arsenal Football Club. He said that revenues from his latest investments, including an oil refinery in Nigeria, will generate enough revenues to allow him fulfill his dream.
Speaking after he first publicly declared his interest in buying Arsenal FC, Dangote, 58, said he has supported Arsenal for more than three decades and that his interest in buying Arsenal did not come suddenly
“I have been a supporter of the team since the Eighties. My love for Arsenal dates back to when I went to watch them play with the-then largest shareholder David Dein. I developed a [liking] for the team and I have been a supporter of the team since then. So it is not overnight stuff.”
Pushing his bid to buy The Gunners, Dangote, ranked the 67th richest man in the world by Forbes with a fortune of $18 billion, said that his close relationship with former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, influenced his love for Arsenal.
By highlighting his relationship to Dein, Dangote no doubt hopes to stir interest in his bid for ownership of the club through the prospect that the former vice-chairman might return to Arsenal if he acquires the club.
Dein was highly influential as vice-chairman of the football club. He played a key role in bringing Arsene Wenger to the club as manager. He left Arsenal in 2007 when the board sold to the American billionaire Stan Kroenke, instead of his choice, the Russian-Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
Kroenke and Usmanov are the biggest shareholders in Arsenal. Kroenke is the majority shareholder with 67 percent stake, while Usmanov is the second biggest shareholder with 29 percent stake.
Dangote expressed confidence that being a Black African would not be considered as an issue in his bid to buy the club.
“What I always say is that money doesn’t have color. It doesn’t matter whether you are from Africa or anywhere in the world. The color of money is the same. Once I put money on the table, they will not think if I am an African.”
“It might be a policy that they don’t want an African to own it, that is another matter altogether, which I don’t really believe.”
This is not the first time that Dangote has tried to buy Arsenal. He tried to acquire 15 percent stake in 2010 from Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, but it went to Kroenke.
Dangote later said that he did not buy because the price was too high at the time and that he was still busy growing his business. But now that he has brought his business to a “certain level,” he is planning another bid for the club.
“There were a couple of us who were rushing to buy, and we thought with the prices then, the people who were interested in selling were trying to go for a kill. We backtracked, because we were very busy doing other things…”
“When we get this refinery on track, I will have enough time and enough resources to pay what they are asking for.”
However, close watchers believe that the major obstacle for Dangote could be Kroenke. He has reportedly shown no signs of interest in selling. But some analysts believe that if Dangote makes a generous offer, Kroenke would be unable to resist.
Dangote has said that as owner he would bring a new direction and strategy to Arsenal, specifically a change in transfer policy of the club.
“They are doing well, but they need another strategic direction. They need more direction than the current situation, where they just develop players and sell them.”
Dangote is considered Africa’s most influential man and the “second most powerful black man in the world, after Obama.”
If he buys Arsenal, he would became the wealthiest owner of an English Premier League club, wealthier than Roman Abramovich, who is listed the 137th richest man in the world compared with Dangote’s 67th.
While many Nigerian sports analysts, including former national team coach Adegboye Onigbinde, have suggested that Dangote should invest in the development of Nigeria’s domestic league instead, the fact remains that a businessman of Dangote’s caliber would be looking to use the opportunity to diversity his interests outside Nigeria and Africa.
[images: Wikimedia Commons]