Arsenal meet Usmanov partner as Russian buys more shares

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LONDON, Sep 29 (Reuters) Red and White Holdings, an investment vehicle co-owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, said it had bought more shares in Arsenal, raising its stake by 2 per cent to 23 per cent.

Red and White -- which has received a cool reception from the English Premier League club who have said they do not need a billionaire backer -- has been gradually increasing its stake in Arsenal Holdings Plc.

The Arsenal board said in a statement later yesterday that a constructive meeting had taken place between its chairman Peter Hill-Wood, managing director Keith Edelman and Red and White Holdings' London-based co-owner Farhad Moshiri.

However, the north London club made it clear once again that the board have no desire to sell their shares.

''Board members of Arsenal Football Club wish to reiterate their intention of retaining their shareholding in the club and have no intention of selling any shares,'' said the statement published on the club's official Web site (www.arsenal.com).

''The board believe that the continued success of the club can best be achieved by the company remaining independent.'' Arsenal's board controls over 45 per cent of the club's shares while American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke holds a 12 per cent stake.

Arsenal's former vice-chairman David Dein is spearheading Red and White Holdings after selling his shares to the company.

A boardroom bust-up forced Dein out of the club in April after he and the rest of board disagreed over the need for a billionaire investor to keep up with the likes of champions Manchester United and FA Cup holders Chelsea.

Reuters MP VP0603

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