Lerner Puts Villa On The Block

Randy Lerner appears to be the first American owner to bow out of English soccer by putting Aston Villa on the block with a price tag around £200 million.

Photo: AP Photo / Simon Dawson
in this 2006 file photo

The former owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns paid about £70 million for a majority interest in the club in 2006, but a subsequent £200 million investment in players and improved facilities means his eight-year tenure will have its downside.

The news came after the last match of the UK’s Premier League season and a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, which left the Birmingham club 15th in the table.

“I owe it to Villa to move on, and look for fresh, invigorated leadership, if in my heart I feel I can no longer do the job,” Lerner said in a statement.

A little over a month ago, Lerner publicly stated that he would address speculation regarding his own future in the summer, but said suggestions that a deal had already been done were way off the mark.

“I am appreciative of the support I have received, even in these last years of comparative struggle when criticism was due, and will look on with others – with fingers crossed, for stronger future performance appropriate to our size and heritage. He said he’d engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale of the club.

“I have come to know well that fates are fickle in the business of English football. And I feel that I have pushed mine well past the limit,” he said.

The American businessmen still heading UK Premier League soccer clubs include the Glazer family at Manchester United, American sports team owner Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry at Liverpool – who have just finished second behind Manchester City in the UK’s top league – and private equity fund chief Ellis Short at Sunderland.