Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not a Gangster; You Can Trust Me: Metals Magnate Alisher Usmanov Is Calling for Calm in North London

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not a Gangster; You Can Trust Me: Metals Magnate Alisher Usmanov Is Calling for Calm in North London

Article excerpt

Byline: RAOUL SIMONS

ALISHER USMANOV today insisted Arsenal have no need to fear him.

The Russian billionaire has bought 23 per cent of the club, raising concernamong fans and directors of a hostile takeover bid.

There have also been questions about his business background, with Arsenalchairman Peter Hill-Wood describing it as "murky".

But speaking here in Moscow today for the first time to the British media, themetals tycoon dismissed the slurs on his reputation - and also failed to ruleout a full takeover bid in the future.

Usmanov said: "I have no smoke. It is beyond my dignity to respond to theallegations. My father worked hard in the Uzbek judicial system and my motherwas a wonderful human being.

"These people could not have brought up what one European politician called agangster and racketeer. I will leave that one to his conscience. I am tired andexhausted by various lawsuits - I am not a vengeful man but I am not a whippingboy either." Usmanov, who is worth in excess of [pounds sterling]5billion, today began a charmoffensive in an attempt to counteract the negative publicity that has followedhis pursuit of Arsenal shares.

He is now the club's second largest shareholder behind Danny Fiszman, who owns24.11 per cent, and has targeted a "blocking stake" of 25 per cent which wouldallow him greater influence.

The 54-year-old, however, still insists publicly that his company, Red andWhite Holdings, is a vehicle simply for investment. But that did little todampen takeover talk at a media briefing in his

Moscow offices this afternoon. Usmanov said: "I do not want to set anyintentions other than those set by the shareholders.

I do not want to buy to sell - I want to be a shareholder in Arsenal.

"As a company, we want to have a large stake in Arsenal. Up to now we have 23per cent, maybe we will have to increase that to 25 per cent. We have nointention of bidding for the club but things change.

Something we may not be able to do today, we can maybe do tomorrow.

"I have always been a fan of the club and I could see that as well as gettingimmense pleasure from the investment, it could also be a useful addition to myportfolio. …

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