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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Bid for Arsenal Yet, Usmanov Says

APAlisher Usmanov
Alisher Usmanov, the owner of a 23 percent stake in Arsenal football club, insisted Tuesday he would not make a takeover bid for the English Premier League team in the near future but said it remained his long-term ambition to own the club.

"We want a large stake ... up to 25 percent," said Usmanov, speaking just days after he and his partner in investment firm Red and White Holdings, Farhad Moshiri, assured the Arsenal board that they would not launch a hostile takeover for the club.

"We have no intention to bid for the club today," Usmanov said.

In a briefing to reporters peppered with jokes at Metalloinvest's plush offices in central Moscow, Usmanov and Moshiri said they would look at the possibility of increasing their stake in the future but lwer unable to do so at present.

"This is business. Something you can't do today, you can do tomorrow," Usmanov said.

Since August, Red and White Holdings has paid out ?120 million ($245 million) to accumulate a 23 percent stake in Arsenal, making the company the largest shareholder after Danny Fiszman, who has 24 percent.

Noting that the other major shareholders have declared their intentions not to sell, Usmanov said, "I do not accept any limits other than those the other Arsenal shareholders have set."

"We have nothing but great respect for the rest of the shareholders, and we appreciate their nervousness, although the nature of their nervousness was sometimes immoderate," he said.

Using the opportunity to rebut what he termed libelous slurs in the Western media regarding his past, Usmanov said he was tired of defending his name.

"I've been accused of being a gangster and a racketeer, but I tell you my parents couldn't have brought up such a person," he said. "It's [beneath] my dignity to respond to all the allegations."

Usmanov's business activities have come under increasing scrutiny in the Western media since his foray into Arsenal. Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has been particularly critical of the businessman and has said in a web log that Usmanov had served prison time in the 1980s for convictions relating to fraud and corruption.

Usmanov has responded that the charges were politically motivated.

He said he would try to persuade David Dein, the former vice chairman of Arsenal who sold Red and White his 14.6 percent stake in August, to moderate his stance toward the current board.

"From our side, we will try to convince Dein to be less hostile to the board," Usmanov said. "We don't want to be held hostage to any hostilities that may exist between him and the [directors]."

Usmanov and Moshiri denied that they would ease out Dein, who was recently appointed nonexecutive chairman of Red and White, noting that they have "great respect" for him.