In a world where tycoons are taking over football, one of the sport’s top businessmen is leaving the pitch.
Keith Edelman has resigned as Arsenal chief executive after eight years with the club – a move that is bound to reignite the debate about the football club’s ownership and future. Edelman, who oversaw Arsenal’s successful move from Highbury to the Emirates stadium, was key to the club’s resistance to the idea of a takeover by one of its wealthy stakebuilders, first Stan Kroenke, the US sports franchise owner, and more recently Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
The former’s interest in Arsenal prompted a lockdown agreement by which the directors pledged not to sell their shares. It has now, with the support of Kroenke, been extended to April 2009 after Usmanov hiked his interest in the club to more than 24 per cent.
Edelman was among those who argued that Arsenal could compete at the top of the English game without the assistance of an Abramovich-style sugar daddy. The club may have missed out on the TV revenues on offer in the final stage of the European Championship, but it is expected to generate £300m from property sales at Highbury and the larger Emirates stadium, financed back in 2006 with the debt secured on ticket takings, should continue to throw off cash thanks to fans’ loyalty at home games and more concerts from the likes of Bruce Springsteen.
Myles Palmer at the Arsenal News Review welcomed Edelman’s departure, suggesting that with other directorships and a £600m eco-centre project on the current boss’ plate another MD might have more time for the club. Their bet is that Edelman didn’t walk of his own accord.
But he is staying on for 12 months to ensure a smooth transition which suggests the parting is amiable. The year-long retention will also mean that Edelman will likely be around when the anti-tycoon lockdown expires next April. Ken Friar, who was previously MD and helped with the Emirates project, will become acting MD while a search is conducted.
Amid the feting of Edelman’s business nous, let’s remember that everyone makes mistakes. Arsenal’s Emirates bonds were the first football securitisation to be rated investment grade. Why? They were guaranteed by Ambac.