Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke essentially has full control over any important decisions at the club, so how did the man in charge make his money in the first place?
Originally, Kroenke lived in Mora, Missouri, where his father owned a lumber company.
After keeping the books for the company for a while, the American went on to get a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Masters of Business Administration from the state University.
Then, in 1974, he married Ann Walton, the Walmart heiress. Before the pair inherited her father’s fortune in 1995, Kroenke moved into real estate. He formed Kroenke Group, a firm that focused on building shopping centres and apartment buildings.
Thanks to his relationship with the Walton family, many of the shopping centres were anchored by Walmarts. However, Macley Clouse, a finance professor at University of Denver, says Kroenke likes people to think of him as self-made nonetheless.
Clouse told The New York Times: “His people want to make sure the public recognises he was well-to-do before marriage.”
Whatever the Arsenal owner wants people to think, it’s clear his connections to Walmart helped him grow his real estate business. Plus, when James Walton died, Kroenke and his wife inherited a Walmart stake now worth billions.
Since a fair portion of Kroenke’s fortune comes either directly or indirectly from Walmart, should Arsenal fans be concerned with the way the supermarket chain does business?
It’s not hard to find reports of exploitation of Walmart workers nowadays. According to a 2016 report (via CNN), workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Indonesia who make clothes for the company face “intensive labour exploitation and abuse”.
Many of the workers interviewed complained of sexual harrassment, as well as unsafe working conditions and low wages. They were also reportedly “forced” into overtime during Cambodia’s hottest season, leading to “mass fainting episodes”.
CommonDreams.org allege that workers in the country who demanded an extra $20 a month were shot and killed.
The problem isn’t just overseas either, even if that’s where the worst violations reportedly take place.
In 2005, a class action lawsuit in Missouri asserted that Walmart forced over 160,000 people to work off the clock. They allegedly didn’t pay the employees overtime, or allow them to take rest and lunch breaks. Five years earlier, Walmart paid $50m to settle a similar lawsuit.
They also allegedly take out life insurance policies on their employees in which they are the sole beneficiaries, regardless of their next-of-kin.
Kroenke and his wife are worth billions, thanks in large part to this company. The 70-year-old used some of those billions to invest in Arsenal.
If stories like these came out of the club I support, I’d want the owners to take action immediately. The Arsenal owner and his wife have a massive stake in Walmart where these practices do happen.
To me, that’s a cause for concern. Do we only care when it affects Arsenal directly?