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Billionaire Usmanov increases stake in Arsenal to 23%

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Red and White Holdings Ltd. has bought a further 2% in English soccer club Arsenal FC bringing the total stake to 23%, the company said Friday.

Usmanov is now the second largest shareholder in the “Gunners” after Danny Fiszman, who is the club director and holds a 24% stake in the club. The Russian billionaire said earlier he intended to acquire a blocking stake of 25% plus one share in the club. The purchase of the additional 2%, which British tabloid The Sun said was worth $12.1 million, comes four days after Arsenal, the current leader of the English Premier League, was named the richest soccer club in the country.

On Monday Arsenal’s management said the club’s income increased between June 1, 2006 and May 31, 2007 by 274% or by $103.24 million reaching over $403.28 million. Peter Hill-Wood, the long-time chairman of the Arsenal board, is not enthusiastic about the Russian billionaire’s purchase and is openly calling on other shareholders to prevent Usmanov, who is apparently a Manchester United fan, from gaining a controlling stake. (