London :Alisher Usmanov has increased his stake in Arsenal to more than 26 percent, keeping the Russian billionaire in a battle for control of the Premier League club with American businessman Stan Kroenke.
Kroenke remains the largest shareholder and has steadily increased his holding in recent months to 29.9 percent, just short of the 30 percent threshold when he would be required to make an offer for the remainder of the shares.
But Arsenal announced on Friday to London's Plus Market that Usmanov _ through investment vehicle Red and White Holdings _ had taken his stake from 15,555 shares, representing just over 25 percent of the club, to 16,223.
While attention has been focused on Kroenke's potential purchase of Arsenal in recent months as he bought shares mostly from fellow directors, Usmanov has been upping his stake on the open market.
Usmanov is only required to make public disclosures when he crosses certain thresholds because he has not been invited onto the board of directors _ unlike Kroenke, who is required to announce each acquisition to the Plus Market.
If either Kroenke or Usmanov crosses the 30 percent threshold, they would be obliged to make a formal offer for the remainder of the shares at the highest price paid for stock during the past 12 months.
Shareholders would not be forced to sell, so if the prospective buyer was unable to secure half of the club, they could not make another takeover offer for 12 months unless invited to do so by the company.
"It looks at the moment there are two main people fighting for the ownership of the club," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Friday. "Who will get the ownership, I don't know. ... It is very difficult for me to be involved in that. It is very important that the club focuses on winning football games."
Earlier this year, the board, which continues to back a self-sustaining business model, rejected Usmanov's plan to raise 100 million pounds through a rights issue to strengthen the squad and reduce the club's debt.
Usmanov responded by doubting whether Arsenal has the financial resources to produce a team that can win the club's first trophy since 2005.
Arsenal is third in the Premier League going into Sunday's match at Liverpool, and has qualified for the knockout round of the Champions League.
Kroenke also owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.