Could Daniel Ek become the new owner of Arsenal FC?
The Spotify founder and billionaire tweeted on Friday that he would be “happy to throw my hat in the ring” to buy the club if current owner Stan Kroenke was open to selling. It could be more than idle chat. On Monday, the Telegraph reported that Ek was working on a formal bid with club legends Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.
Kroenke, who has had a controlling stake in the football club since 2011, has indicated he is unwilling to sell. But the potential bid comes at a delicate time, with fans angry at Arsenal’s involvement in the aborted European Super League and football finances under pressure. An attractive bid may prove tempting.
Billionaire Ek has supported Arsenal for “as long as I can remember,” he said on Twitter, and was first attracted to the club when Swede Anders Limpar signed for them in 1990.
Ek, 38, is the Swedish founder and chief executive of Spotify (SPOT), the international music streaming giant. Stockholm-born Ek cofounded the company in 2006 and its success has turned him into a billionaire. Today, publicly listed Spotify is worth around $50bn and Ek has a net worth of $4.7bn, according to Forbes.
Ek grew up Ragsved, Stockholm, a “pretty rough” area, he told the Financial Times. His father was a mechanic and his mother a childminder. The family bought both a computer and a guitar when Ek was just five.
Spotify was not Ek’s first company. The tech whizzkid began building websites aged just 13. By 18, he employed 25 people and was earning more than his mother and father combined. A letter from the Swedish taxman ended the endeavour, according to Pando Daily.
After being turned down for a job at Google (GOOGL), Ek continued his entrepreneurial streak by setting up an online advertising company in Sweden. He had sold the company and stakes in three other businesses by his late 20s, giving him enough wealth to theoretically retire. However, he was unhappy at the idea of a rich and idle life.
“Buying sports cars, going to expensive nightclubs, spraying people with champagne and things like that: what I learnt is that it wasn’t for me and, in fact, I feel pretty empty after doing that,” he told the Financial Times in 2013.
One of the businesses Ek worked on during this period was UTorrent, a torrenting service, which gave him the idea for Spotify.
Spotify was founded at a time when illegal music downloading was rife and the music industry was struggling to convince people to pay for its product.
“I told my team, ‘If we can create the feeling that people have all the world’s music on their hard drives, we will have built something that’s much better than piracy,'” he told the Masters of Scale podcast in 2018.
Ek’s genius was to introduce a subscription model. Rather than having people buy individual records, they would pay a flat monthly free to access a back catalogue of all the world’s artists.
It was a tough pitch to convince record labels but almost all eventually signed up. At the same time, the struggle to convince labels meant Spotify was a hard business to compete with. Today, Spotify has 345m users and 155m subscribers.
The business is not without controversy. Spotify has repeatedly faced backlash from artists who say the service does not pay them enough and complain it has hollowed out the professional music industry. However, the company has weathered the criticism and Spotify is now firmly embedded within the global music industry.
The company’s success has helped catapult Ek into the upper echelons of global society. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood comedian Chris Rock both attended his wedding at Lake Como, Italy, in 2016, while Bruno Mars performed at the ceremony.
Ek is a voracious and eclectic reader and cites former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson’s book Leading as one of his favourite. As you’d expect, he’s a music fan. Favourite artists include Radiohead, Daft Punk, the Beatles and Led Zepplin. Ek has two daughters with wife Sofia Levander. The family still live in Stockholm.
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