LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal supporters who own shares in the club are being told not to sell to American billionaire Stan Kroenke, who this week agreed a takeover deal.
"The AST (Arsenal Supporters Trust) and Arsenal Fanshare scheme will not be selling the shares it owns and urges all supporters to reject this offer," said the AST in a statement.
"Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person. The AST wants to work with Stan Kroenke to keep Arsenal supporters involved in the club's ownership structure."
Billionaire Kroenke, who already owns close to 30 percent of the London club, said on Monday he had offered shareholders 11,750 pounds ($19,110) per share and had already secured the backing of 17 percent shareholder Danny Fiszman and 16 percent shareholder Nina Bracewell-Smith.
The American now controls 63 percent of Arsenal and under Takeover Panel rules is compelled to make an offer for the remaining shares.
RED AND WHITE
Russian steel magnate Alisher Usmanov is the other major shareholder, holding a 27 percent stake through his Red and White vehicle which has so far declined to comment on what his plans are.
"In just six months the Arsenal Fanshare scheme has gained 1,800 members who have invested 500,000 pounds in Arsenal shares," said the AST.
"This scheme has been widely praised across the football community and is supported by the government who are currently reviewing football's governance structures."
More than 100 members who attended an AST meeting in London on Monday voted unanimously for the trust to continue its campaign for supporters to remain in the club's ownership structure, the statement added.
The 63-year-old Kroenke, worth $2.9 billion in 2010 according to Forbes, already owns several U.S. sports teams including the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, NFL team the St Louis Rams and Major League Soccer team the Colorado Rapids.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich, editing by Tony Jimenez)