Premier League club Arsenal, confirming the departure of Ivan Gazidis to Italian club AC Milan, have announced the promotion of the top executives Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi to new roles to oversee the running of the club.
Gazidi, who joined as the chief executive of the English football club, has moved to AC Milan who are reportedly offering a hike of $1.32 million (£1m) over his salary of $3.42 million (£2.6m) paid by Arsenal along with an equity stake in the LaLiga club.
Vinai Venkatesham of Indian origin, presently chief commercial officer, will take up a new role of managing director, while Raul Sanllehi, who was recruited from FC Barcelona in February as head of football relations will now serve the Gunners as the head of football.
Sanllehi has spent 16 years at Barcelona before joining Arsenal. Venkatesham, who was a part of London 2012 Olympics organising committee, arrived in 2010 to manage the commercial activities of the club.
However, It is currently unclear whether Arsenal will eventually appoint a new chief executive, or work under the new leadership structure, with long standing employees Venkatesham and Sanllehi now at the helm of affairs.
Gazidis will depart from Arsenal on October 31 and will join AC Milan as chief executive from December 1.
Josh Kroenke, deputy chairman of Arsenal’s majority owner Kroenke Sports and Entertainment UK, said, “It has been a pleasure working with Ivan. We will miss the wisdom, insight, and energy he brought to our club on a daily basis over the past decade. We are confident we have outstanding people in Raul and Vinai, and we look forward to working with them and coach Unai Emery to continue to move the club forward on and off the pitch.”
Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick said, “Ivan has led Arsenal with skill and dedication and leaves us in a strong position. The club has been transformed and he has recruited talented people, such as Raul, Vinai and of course Unai Emery, who will take us to future success.”
Sanllehi said, “Although I joined Arsenal just months ago, I’ve felt embraced by this great club and part of its family from the first day. I will do everything possible to maintain our strong values which will be as fundamental to our future as they have been in our past.”
“Vinai and I will need everyone’s help, to do everything right and secure the success everyone connected to Arsenal wants. I sincerely thank Arsenal’s board for their trust in us and thank Ivan for bringing me to this great club, and for consistently supporting me every day, in every way. It’s with overwhelming pride and utmost excitement that I face this new opportunity.”
Venkatesham said, “From the day I joined Arsenal I have always considered it a privilege to serve this great football club, so it’s an honour to take up the position of managing director and lead the club alongside Raul. Together we will work tirelessly with the extraordinary staff we have at Arsenal to respect and enhance our unique history, heritage and values; with the overall objective to bring success to our millions of fans all around the world and make them proud of their club.”
“I thank Stan and Josh Kroenke and the rest of the board for their trust in me, and Ivan for all the support he has given me since I joined the club in 2010.”
Gazidis has issued the following message to the Arsenal fans: “For the last 10 years I have been privileged to dedicate myself to this great club. Arsenal is entering a new chapter and I have done everything I can to ensure that it is strongly placed to take on that challenge. This includes world-class facilities and outstanding leaders in every sector who carry the values of the club, including, of course, Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham in whom I have enormous faith.”
“We have been building on the club’s progressive social values, leading the way on the women’s game, diversity and inclusion, and establishing the Arsenal Foundation. This will remain central to the club’s philosophy.”
“Although it is very hard to do – the hardest decision of my life – I believe that, after 10 years, it is the right time for me to step aside to allow new leadership, energy and ideas to take the club forward into this exciting new era. I believe in the positive force of change, both for me and for the club. I am excited to see what the future holds for this great club and I am energised by a new personal challenge with AC Milan.
“My sincere thanks go to Stan and Josh Kroenke for their support and guidance on everything we have done. To Sir Chips Keswick, Lord Phil Harris, Ken Friar and my wonderful management team and staff, on and off the field, to Arsène Wenger, Unai Emery and to the fans of this giant and incredible club, thank you for your immense support and friendship over so many years and for the wonderful privilege of being part of the journey.
“We lived through many emotions together, the highs and the lows of football, and I am proud to be able to say that I gave this club and its fantastic people everything that I had in me. I am excited and energised for the future for myself and for Arsenal Football Club and I will always hold it in my heart.”