Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote has insisted his interest in buying Arsenal is not ‘overnight stuff’ and revealed he has been a fan of the club for more than 30 years thanks to former vice-chairman David Dein.
Dangote, who is the 67th wealthiest person in the world with a fortune of £12billion, has explained his interest in The Gunners by explaining he was first taken to the club’s former Highbury ground by Dein, a close friend and associate.
Dein, a former sugar trader, helped Dangote start his business in 1980. Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc now accounts for 90 per cent of the product sold in Nigeria.
‘My love for Arsenal dates back to when I went to watch them play with the-then largest shareholder David Dein. I developed a likeness for the team and I have been a supporter of the team since then. So it is not overnight stuff.’‘I have been a supporter of the team since the Eighties,’ confirmed Dangote after publicly declaring his wish to be the club’s next owner.
Using Dein’s name leaves the fascinating prospect of whether the former vice-chairman will return to Arsenal if Dangote becomes the club’s new owner.
Dein was regarded as Mr Arsenal and key to the appointment of Arsene Wenger as manager until he left in 2007 when the board chose to sell to American Stan Kroenke rather than his ally Alisher Usmanov. Kroenke, 67, is now the majority stakeholder at the club with a 67 per cent share.
Dangote believes his background won’t be an obstacle to buying Arsenal.
‘What I always say is that money doesn’t have colour. It doesn’t matter whether you are from Africa or anywhere in the world. The colour of money is the same. Once I put money on the table, they will not think if I am an African.
‘It might be a policy that they don’t want an African to own it, that is another matter altogether, which I don’t really believe.’
Dangote tried to buy a 15 per cent stake in Arsenal in 2010 but claims the price was too high. ‘The people who were interested in were actually trying to go for the kill,’ he said.
‘Obviously I am not going to lose money. Arsenal are doing well but they need another strategic direction. They need more direction than the current ownership who just develop players and sell them.’
Dangote caused international headlines last week when he said in an interview with BBC Hausa that he would be in a position to buy Arsenal because of revenues from a private oil refinery he was building in Nigeria.