Oxfam have revealed that the most valuable shares ever left to the charity were shares in the originalArsenal Football Club.
The original Woolwich Arsenal shares which were offered for sale to the people of Woolwich and Plumstead by Henry Norris in 1910 are still the shares that are traded now as Arsenal FC. When the club moved to Highbury the company was not changed and the self-same Woolwich Arsenal shares are the ones traded today.
The Oxfam shares had been overlooked in 1920 when the original owner died, and and were traced through 4 subsequent estates. Each share was worth £6,965 when finally sold in 2009. Today they trade at around £10,000.
There are numerous original shares in the company (which sold for £1.00 each), which are now listed as being owned by “Unknown of Woolwich” – the original shareholder having died, and the family of the deceased now being untraceable.
AISA – the supporters association – have invited the club to assign these shares to Arsenal Supporters Trust to hold until such time as the ownership can be proven, but the club has declined to do so.
The story of the issuing of these shares is given in Making the Arsenal – the book – and the attempts to give them away on “five for the price of four” and ultimately “five for the price of three” basis is covered in the story. The local public failed to take up the shares in any large numbers and they were eventually all taken by Henry Norris – which is how he came to own the club.
There’s more details of Making the Arsenal on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk along with details of how you can order the book.