One of the initial concerns surrounding the new Aston Villa owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, was what was their initial motivation investing in the club? Were they simply wealthy business men tracked down by Tony Xia to play the role of financial saviours, with potential to earn back on their investment through promotion to the Premier League? Beyond this being a business venture, have they been previously interested in being involved in running a football team?
There was no better way for MOMS to find out than to ask them face-to-face when the Villa Fan Consultation Group (FCG) was invited to meet the new majority owners in person last week (as previously detailed).
While it was an informal meeting and obviously the specifics that were said are private and unrecorded, one of the things that Wes Edens told us is already public record and was widely reported in the US two years ago. It’s something that legitimises and provides context to their footballing interest.
Edens had been in talks over two years ago with David Beckham and his people in potentially investing in Beckham’s Miami MLS franchise venture, after the former England international’s initial talks with an investment wing of the Qatari government broke down.
Eden’s New York-based Fortress Investment Group has a subsidiary called Florida East Coast Industries which has major interests in Miami transport infrastructure, commercial property and real estate that synced up well with Beckham’s needs to build a stadium for his franchise in Miami. The team-up would have potentially solved logistical issues such as parking and rail links (Edens’ Fortress was backing the Miami-to-Orlando railway called the Brightline).
Without going into detail, Edens did confirm to the FCG the documented interest in the Miami franchise and added they had been looking for the right club since.
The actual sporting attraction and the scope of football Villa could potentially be involved in – with Premier League and Champions League football obviously a cut above MLS in terms of money and global interest – is ultimately why Edens and Sawiris cast their eyes over to Europe and English football. It gives their investment a bigger spectrum of potential, if the club can hit the right notes.
The parallels with the industrial roots of both Birmingham and Milwaukee, where Edens’ co-owned NBA franchise the Milwaukee Bucks reside, will no doubt give Edens an insight into the landscape of building Villa up. First of all, you feel Villa has to really dominate the local landscape, making it as synonymous to the city of Birmingham, as Liverpool and the Manchester clubs are to their respective cities. You can currently walk around the city centre and see little sign of Villa.
As mentioned previously, both Edens and Sawiris were measured and considered in everything they spoke about in terms of moving Villa forward during the meet-up with the FCG group. Through their previous football club interest, they’ve obviously built up a good idea of good practice and crystallised their objectives.
There was no brash statements such as ‘Champions League football in x amount of years’, instead their message was one of learning as a club to walk with a firm stride once again. Once we can do that, then we’ll no doubt quicken the pace in the direction of those much-loved Villa Park European nights again.
Yes, it’s finally coming in the next 24 hours…the latest podcast episode.