Thursday, April 19, 2007

Arsenal's Dein steps down after 24 years

Arsenal's Dein steps down after 24 years.
David Dein, one of the top movers and shakers in European football, has resigned as vice-chairman of Arsenal, the club he first joined in 1983.

Dein cited "irreconcilable differences" with the rest of the board, but was effectively fired for attempting to lever US sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, who owns 11% of the shares, into the club.

Hours before Dein's departure was announced, Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood told the Guardian: "We would be horrified to see ownership of the club go across the Atlantic," referring to Kroenke as "some stranger".

Dein was synonymous with the modern breed of entrepeneurial, commercially-aware directors of the Premier League, but interestingly was against the construction of the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium for Arsenal, preferring a rental of the new Wembley.

The former sugar trader is best known as the man who brought Arsene Wenger to Highbury in 1996, but was also important on an international level as chairman of the G-14 group of top European clubs, a position he surely should no longer maintain, and a former vice-chairman of England's Football Association.

Dein was criticized in his latter role for a conflict of interest when helping select the new England coach in both 2001 an 2006, keeping his friend and employee Arsene Wenger away from the selection process.

Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho questioned his dual role, Ferguson on the grounds that FA disciplinary committees seemed less harsh on Arsenal than his team, and Mourinho on account of the Gunners' allegedly smoother fixture list.

Dein's business ethics were also called into question when Belgian police found a cash injection to Beveren from Highbury may have breached FIFA guidelines and Dein opposed a ban on clubs keeping agents on the payroll. Crystal Palace's outspoken chairman Simon Jordan labelled him "one of those smiling assassins".

Dein, a Jewish activist who ensured "Think Israel" was displayed around the field at the Emirates, may yet merge his 14.5% with Kroenke's 11.2% holding and angle to reach 30% ownership, which would trigger an automatic takeover bid.

Plus, given that his son Darren is Thierry Henry's agent and was best man at his wedding, football and Arsenal are unlikely to have seen the last of David Dein.

(C) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile.

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