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Old 20th April 2007, 09:40   #1
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Default Aristocrat has no desire to part with family heirloom

Aristocrat has no desire to part with family heirloom
Tom Dart The Times
April 20, 2007

If the Bracewell-Smiths sell their shareholding in Arsenal to Stan Kroenke it will not be the first time they have disposed of a cherished and famous asset to expansionistic and powerful Americans. A significant chunk of the family fortune comes from the sale of a large stake in the Park Lane Hotel in London to the Sheraton Company in 1996.

That year, Nina Kakkar married Sir Charles Bracewell-Smith, entering into the British aristocracy and becoming part of a family who have played a significant role in Arsenal’s history.

It is that sense of the past that is the greatest safeguard against the possibility that she and her husband will give up their 15.9 per cent stake in Arsenal — 1 per cent bigger than that of David Dein, the former vice-chairman — which is worth about £70 million. Danny Fiszman — like Lady Nina, a non-executive director — owns 24.11 per cent, making him the biggest stockholder.

Not forgetting that the Bracewell-Smiths hardly need the money. An estimated family fortune of £70 million placed her 36th on the 2006 Sunday Timesfootball Rich List, joint 817th overall. She is joint 60th in the list of Britain’s richest women with Jackie Collins, the novelist, and also among the country’s wealthiest Asians.

Sir Bracewell Smith, Sir Charles’s grandfather, built the Park Lane Hotel in 1920. His family owned or were major shareholders of the Ritz Hotel, the Carlton Hotel and the Paris Ritz. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1946 and joined the Arsenal board in 1938. He and his family became a dynasty, part of the club’s fabric. Sir Bracewell was named chairman in 1949, holding the position for 13 years.

Two of his grandsons, also hoteliers, hold roles at the club: Clive Carr is life president and Richard Carr is a director. George, Sir Bracewell’s son, adopted his father’s full name as the family surname in tribute to his father. George’s youngest son, Charles, assumed the baronetcy when his brother died in 1983.

A Debrett’s entry for the Harrow-educated Sir Charles, born in 1955, cites his interests as comparative religion, mystical theology, philosophy, psychology and Arsenal FC. His first wife, Lady Carol, from whom he was estranged, died of cancer in 1994.

Lady Nina, 51, originally from Delhi, is the daughter of an Indian diplomat. On April 15, 2005, she took over from her husband in the boardroom. That makes her one of only two female directors at Premiership clubs — the other is Brenda Spencer at Wigan Athletic.

However, Lady Nina had previous boardroom experience at the Park Lane Hotel and an investment company. She is a trustee of the Homestead Charitable Trust, a charity that gives donations to a range of causes using money from the proceeds of Sir Charles’s shareholding in the Park Lane Hotel.

In an interview with Arsenal’s official members’ magazine this year, Lady Nina said that she is enjoying her role on the board “immensely”, adding that she likes watching the team “very much. Although I wasn’t a big football fan before my association with the club, I have to say that now I am totally hooked. I love the way we play football, I think Arséne Wenger creates fabulous teams.”

Highlights were the performances of Arsenal’s youngsters in the Carling Cup and the final match at Highbury last year. “I will never forget that afternoon, especially as I was with board members for whom Highbury was like a second home,” she said.

Her comments appear to support the view that she is a traditionalist and would hate to part with what is in effect a heirloom. “I am fully aware of the great history the family have within the club,” she said. “I fully appreciate the significant role the family have played within the club over the years.”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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