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.”