Exactly a month back, Arsenal officially announced Tim Lewis’ appointment to the board as a non-executive director. However, this appointment was overshadowed on the day by Bukayo Saka’s contract extension which dominated all the headlines. Let’s have a closer look at Tim Lewis and the possible rationale for the club making such an appointment.
A graduate of Oxford University, Tim is a partner at London based law firm Clifford Chance which also happens to be one of the largest law firms in the world, setting up their practice across 5 continents. He already had a huge reputation as being one of the leading M&A (Mergers and acquisitions) lawyers in the world and in 2010, his hire by Clifford Chance as a partner operating from the London office made the headlines. As of today, he has over 34 years experience practicing as a lawyer.
His profile on Clifford Chance reads: ‘Tim Lewis specialises in advising listed and international corporate clients on M&A, equity issues and reorganisations, as well as providing general corporate advice.’
The connections between Tim Lewis, Stan Kroenke and Arsenal date all the way back to April 2011 when Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) became majority owner of the club, with 63% of the ownership, purchasing shares of Danny Fiszman (16.1%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9%). Tim, representing Clifford Chance was amongst the host of law firms that had played a pivotal role in advising Kroenke to complete the takeover.
Since April 2011, so much in the club has changed. Arsène Wenger ran the show in the so called manager does it all model, but as the club started showing signs of decline, in 2017 – Ivan Gazidis decided to change things in what he termed the ‘continental model’ which led to us bringing in Sven Mislintat to head recruitment, Huss Fahmy to act as the contract negotiator and Raul Sanllehi as the head of football relations.
However, this has since undergone revision, with the departure of Gazidis and Mislintat. We now have a technical director in Edu and Sanllehi basically runs the show. Historically, the Kroenkes have never really interfered too much into Arsenal – their idea has always been to trust those that are running the club. Some will say it is the right approach, but many fans also believe its important for the owner to be more involved and engage on a more frequent basis.
However, since Gazidis departed and the club stopped making Champions league, we are seeing a greater involvement from Josh Kroenke who by the way, is also a part of Arsenal’s board. Does this indicate a possible lack of trust? Maybe not, but it could certainly mean they’re trying to keep a closer eye on what is going on at the club.
Appointing Tim, who has been a close associate with the Kroenke family in the past seems like a move to exert more of their influence and have some sort of check on those running the club because let’s be real, we haven’t been run well from the footballing side of things in the recent years, which is a huge reason to why the club finds themselves in such a mess today – a decline like this simply doesn’t happen overnight.
Arsenal have been a private entity since 2018, so there is an air of mystery when it comes to the financials. Last summer, we committed about £135m in transfer fees on new signings, which raised many eyebrows. When Josh Kroenke speaking to David Ornstein in an interview with the BBC was asked if they followed the self-sustaining model, he stated:
“I’m not going to go into too much detail – people can read between the lines of being aggressive and what that might mean. It’s going to be a private matter for us here at the club, but I hope our fans understand that by being aggressive that’s exactly what we were. Going into the summer we knew we were going to have instruments in place that were going to allow us to be aggressive and they weren’t going to be dependent on sales.”
With Arsenal faltering in the table and financial losses due COVID-19 having its effect, Arsenal need to find a way of showing ambition in the coming transfer window to back Mikel Arteta. KSE has restructured Arsenal’s debt and this will reduce the club’s annual obligation towards payments – but as @SwissRamble points out, it is unlikely to lead to the kind of spending that we want to see to get the squad back to competing.
Ornstein, answering me in his Q&A column for The Athletic suggests that Arsenal do have some wriggle room for FFP, but will try to stick to their self sustaining model as much as they can. He also added that the Kroenkes will be covering ‘financial commitments’ going forward.
Tim Lewis could have a vital role to play in providing the club with the right kind of financial advice. It might be anecdotal, but Tim is a lifelong Arsenal fan so let’s hope that he has the club’ best interests at heart in every decision. In my opinion, it is always good to have someone who supports the club up top to work in close connection with the ownership.
It seems to me like a well calculated move (appointing Tim) by the Kroenkes looking at their past connections with Tim and how the club has progressed since, also keeping in light the current financial climate where we need to find ways to make investments possible whilst complying with FFP, or at least make best possible use of the financial resources available. Of course, a lot of this is just speculation, but I personally think we’re in for an exciting summer ahead, with or without European football and Tim could have a big role to play in this. COYG!