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Arsenal's new owner? Meet Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek

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·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
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Daniel Ek, CEO of Swedish music streaming service Spotify, poses for photographers at a press conference in Tokyo on September 29, 2016. 
Spotify kicked off its services in Japan on September 29. / AFP / TORU YAMANAKA        (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)
Daniel Ek, CEO of Swedish music streaming service Spotify. Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Watch: Arsenal fans protest against owner Kroenke

READ MORE: Manchester United and Juventus shares crash as European Super League falls apart

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 ($36bn) 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.

Daniel Ek and Kerry Washington attend an intimate evening of music and culture hosted by Spotify and Hulu during Cannes Lions 2019 at Villa Mirazur on 17 June 2019 in Cannes, France. Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Spotify
Daniel Ek and Kerry Washington attend an intimate evening of music and culture hosted by Spotify and Hulu during Cannes Lions 2019 at Villa Mirazur on 17 June 2019 in Cannes, France. Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Spotify

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.

READ MORE: JP Morgan promises to 'learn' from European Super League mistake

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. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, rapper Snoop Dogg, and entrepreneur Sean Parker pose backstage at Sean Parker's Celebration of Music on September 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, rapper Snoop Dogg, and entrepreneur Sean Parker pose backstage at Sean Parker's Celebration of Music on September 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

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.

Watch: English football clubs pull out of European Super League

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