Arsenal board agree new lockdown deal

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LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) English Premier League club Arsenal have moved to ward off any takeover bid by extending a lockdown agreement that prevents board members selling shares to outside investors.

At the club's AGM today chairman Peter Hill-Wood said directors had agreed to sell their stake only to ''permitted persons'', such as family members, before April 2009 and had to give fellow board members first option until October 2012.

The existing lockdown deal was due to expire next April, raising the prospect that Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov could attempt to seize control of the north London club after the 54-year-old recently upped his stake to 23 per cent.

In a statement Hill-Wood said: ''Members of the Board are committed long-term shareholders and to strengthen the current position they have entered into a new agreement which replaces the existing lock-down agreement which expires next April.

''Under the new agreement, the Board members have agreed not to dispose of any of their interests in the club before April 18 2009, other than to certain permitted persons such as close family.

''After that date, for the remainder of the term of the agreement, they can only sell their shares to another person if the other parties to the agreement do not wish to buy them.'' The club last month announced record turnover figures after moving to the Emirates Stadium and the team top the Premier League having won 10 matches in a row in all competitions.

''We had a very successful financial performance over the past year. Together with our very promising start to the season, in which Arsene Wenger's team has won 12 of our first 13 matches, we are all very encouraged with the current performances of our club on and off the field,'' Hill-Wood said.

REUTERS BJR KN1903

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