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Is Randy Lerner selling Villa?

 

The first rule of the Sun newspaper is not to buy the Sun newspaper. The second rule of the Sun newspaper is not to believe the Sun newspaper. So, when you see the usual suspects madly retweeting the Suns’ rumours, you are advised to approach with caution. After all, you must have learnt something from MOMS’ Media Muppets articles by now.

For starters, there actually doesn’t seem to be anything new to their latest story and to be honest, it could have been cobbled together from Twitter whisperings, as it only offers up a bunch of vague notions. There is no substantial evidence, indeed the only source seems to live in the journalist’s head.

Paul Faulkner has already denied it via BBC Radio 5 (also see below).

There have been rumours recently of Villa selling and this might have just spawned from those. The transfer window is closed now, so they need some speculation to get their readers hooked.

Sometimes rumours are fueled by wishful thinking which sometimes distracts from the reality of the situation. For example, I don’t think the Red Bull take-over was ever a reality. That just grew out of the tiny acorn of: a) Red Bull have sponsored some football clubs, and, b) former Villa manager Gerard Houllier worked for Red Bull. Sometimes rumour spinners use very basic logic.

The price figure stated by the Sun of £200 million seems to be a guesstimate, in-line with the $240 million listed by Forbes in 2009. Since then, TV money has gone up substantially, although player values/assets may have dropped.

What would be Lerner’s motive to sell? While Lerner went through a few turbulent years with a divorce and the economic and the tax implications that brings, the sale of the Cleveland Browns would have lessen the load. The timing for that sale also made sound business sense in terms of capital gains tax and also limiting estate tax, which became more of an issue with his divorce.

As a Cleveland newspaper pointed out at the time of the Browns sale:

 

If Mr. Lerner, whose net worth approaches $1 billion, according to Forbes, were married, he might be more willing to wait to sell the team [Cleveland Browns], as he would leave it to his spouse upon death, delaying an estate tax bill of $350 million or so. But because the 51-year-old is divorced, his family would inherit his assets and be forced to pay that tax within nine months of his death.

 

It’s unsure what would motivate him to sell Villa? It can’t be the cash. Apparently, he is still due in the next year or two, a second payment of around $300 million for the Browns sale. The first amount, a reported $700 million was paid upon completion of the deal.

‘His heart not being in it’, as he hasn’t been to Villa Park for a while, isn’t really reason enough to sell when thinking about multi-million pound deals. Business is business. He’s not going to lose millions because he can’t be bothered anymore!

I also don’t buy into the idea that they have been clearing the wage bill to prepare the club for a sale. That had to be done and they are simply rectifying their earlier mistakes. The question is though, to what extent has this compromised the board’s ambition?

In the press, Paul Faulkner talks about a ‘long-term vision’ but constantly spares us the details. In a Villa Supporters Trust meeting at the end of last year, when I suggested to the board they were once bitten, twice shy, when it came to the cavalier approach to ambition we saw under Martin O’Neill, they didn’t lie. Of course, they were.

A period of caution and recovery doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of interest by Lerner and his board. But as Villa supporters constantly ask ourselves, what is the board’s ambition now?

Encouragingly, the number of teams at the top of the Premier League that are competitive has grown. The Top Four are not completely impenetrable, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the likes of Everton fare the rest of the season. Villa will need to spend more to compete, but it’s not simply a matter of splashing the cash. Most importantly they will need an excellent manager and a team built on the foundation of a proper spirit, supplemented with astutely brought quality players.

Lambert it has to be remembered has only got two full seasons experience in the Premier League under his belt. He’s also come in and literally gutted the team and started again. David Moyes, for example, had some shocking seasons as Everton boss, before he built a consistent and solid infrastructure for the club that has made Martinez’s job a hell of a lot easier to do.

I think Lambert and Lerner would have been brought a bit more patience and belief from supporters, if Villa had got through that League Cup semi-final against Bradford City and hadn’t squandered the chance of decent FA Cup runs in the past couple of seasons. It would have been a placebo for any league positions during the rebuilding period.

Lambert will be the first to admit he got those games wrong. Add those results (which still smolder in every Villa fan’s subconscious) to some of the inept performances at Villa Park, and yes, certainly supporters haven’t got anything  tangible to cling to, to suggest this Lerner/Lambert package is actually going to prevail and bring success.

I haven’t written it off yet, but I also have the feeling it owes us one for our patience and blind trust.

Whatever basis in truth the below Sun story has, this summer and Lambert’s third season in charge should finally provide the answers for many questions. We’ll soon find out what is at the heart of the supposed ‘long-term project’ in the summer and also the extent of Villa’s ambition.

Three years into a manager’s reign, a clearer picture forms and there’s nowhere to hide. The club won’t be able to bluff the Villa supporters no more. UTV

 

Below from The Sun – 2nd February 2014…

 

ASTON VILLA FOR SALE – £200 MILLION

The American tycoon, who bought the club from Doug Ellis for £63m in 2006, is actively looking for a new owner who can inject more funds into Villa and take them forward.

Lerner, 51, has been hoping for a wealthy United States investor to buy Villa. His inflated asking price takes into account the £250m he has spent on players, plus redeveloping facilities. Lerner knows he will not recoup all the cash but has been encouraged by the £190m Mohamed Fayed received from Shahid Khan for Fulham.

A source said: “Randy has been open to offers for Villa from some time — but wants quite a lot of money from the club. “He has seen the £190m sale of Fulham but about £35m of that was a premium for it being a London-based club.” The value of Prem clubs is soaring because of the new TV deal which pays at least £40m a season.

A deal could take around three months to complete and any buyer would wait to be sure Villa will definitely be a top-flight side next season before finalising a deal.

Former Villa boss Gerard Houllier, global sports director for Red Bull, has already gone public to state his company are not interested in tabling a bid.

 

Below from BBC Sport Website – 2nd February 2014…

 

BBC Sport’s Pat Murphy tells BBC Radio 5 live: “Randy Lerner has treated that story with disdain.

“I have just spoken to Aston Villa’s chief executive Paul Faulkner; he says he has spoken to Lerner and the story is nonsense, there’s no truth in it.

“Faulkner says he speaks to Lerner three or four times a day and he watches every game, no matter where he is in the world.

“He (Faulkner) added that Lerner had put £250m into the club and has no intention of walking away.”

 


 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I dont know if Randy is selling or not but he is certainly acting like someone who is preparing a company for sale. The share issue, the drive to be being profitable, and as part of that the lack of funds for players. The press refutal of stories, all of these follow the same path he he took with the Browns. He was denying the club was up for sale right up until the last minute. These are the actions of someone who has a buyer in mind and is smoothing the waters. He might not be it could be that he believes there is a light at the end of this proces and that he has the finance and will to take the club forward.However I doubt it everything about the last few seasons has been about avoiding any long term committment. If he did sell I do believe he has the best interests of the club in mind and wouldnt just sell us in an auction type process. If a sale is made I have always thought it would be to someone he knows not just a corporation which would not fit with Villa history and traditions which I think he still believes are important. The obvious candidate is David Thompson who is one of the top 25 richest people in the world and a long time friend of Lerners. A side point while to me Lerner is wealthy in global terme he isnt in the top 1500. Many owners of premiership clubs are far wealthier than Randy and not just the Man Cities of the world. Thompson and Lerner share the same passions are close friends and it was suggested that Thompson, who part owns a top canadian ice hockey team, wants to invest in a premiership club. Maybe a joint ownership with Thompson buying a share of the club and providing new investment. I am relaxed about all of this because I dont believe Lerners wants us to just stagnate as a midtable going nowhere club so he will either invest or sell. This summer will be a key indicater of whats happening, the wage bill is down and revenue up so there will be nowhere to hide if investment is not made. If it isnt then it is through a lack of interest which means the club will be sold at some point. If it is then Randy has rediscovered his ambition and his balls and we will all be happy.

    • Yep, I agree and as I said in the post, the summer will be interesting on several levels. I’m also relaxed about it.

  2. So it is as I posted on twitter last night an article with a title aimed @ selling papers but with nothing new in it except for an re hash of the various rumours that keep circulating the Web & which have been growing in number of late . But is there really any truth in them , or are they just more of the same that have been circulating since before Randy took over ? And could it just be that those opposed to Randy’s takeover preying even more on the frustrations of those fans who are over eager for some success ? I think so !
    But what of those frustrations ? We as faced a modicum of success under MON but it came @ a cost & 6th place was all we acheived . And yes Randy promised more but that was before the rise of ManC which massively demoted Villa from being amongst the wealthy which for a very short while it had become . But fans do not seem or want to recognise that fact , or the need to prune the budget as they have tasted what might be . But can Villa rise again to the highest levels of the Prem & beyond ? Randy’s opponents say not and feed the doubters with glimpses of evidence they claim prooves that he is milking the club yet do not back their “facts” with hard evidense . So what is the truth ? Certainly Randy is wealthy in his own right & has no need to milk the club unlike the Glaisers who own ManU & whoses debts are also the clubs . But it would seem that although Randy owns Villa his & the clubs finances are separate , so any claims about him saddling the club with debt are false . But the world of corporate finance is far evolved from those of the average fan so it is easy to make such claims about debts & how they are paid . As for selling the club could that be another con? Footie does not raise enough revenue on it’s own to support the aspirations of the fans . The money raised by the EPL from TV rights is growing but is that enough ? It would seem not with the recent investments that Randy & co have secured from the Far East . But could selling of such investments be what are being used to decieve fans into thinking the club is being sold ? I suspect that they are ! But it is such investments which do not involve ownership of the club , that are required , as they are what makes clubs such as ManU so wealthy

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