It hasn’t been a secret that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has been looking to sell his struggling English Premier League team. After finally being relegated from the EPL, Aston Villa’s owner has finally found a group looking to buy the team, a team whose value has no doubt plummeted.
Aston Villa’s chairman Steve Hollis flew to China to finalize the sale of Aston Villa. Today, the team announced that the entire team will be sold to Recon Group and Dr. Tony Jiantong Xia. The ownership is subject to approval by the EPL and the Football League but if that goes through, Dr. Xia will be the new chairman. The Guardian didn’t name the consortium buying the team but reported that the group is already looking to hire former UEFA Champions League winning manager Roberto di Matteo as manager. Lerner was supposedly looking to do business at around £100 million ($145 million) but the BBC reports that Recon is paying “as little as £60 million” ($87.5 million).
For the country of China, this is a great opportunity to break into the English side of the game. Aston Villa would be the first English team to be 100% owned by someone from China. Domestically, China has been heavily investing in soccer in the Chinese Super League as well as player development in hopes of being a soccer superpower. Recon Group may be investing in a team who is dropping into the English Championship and won’t have worldwide attention now but like buying any business, they have surely bought the team at the right time due to Aston Villa’s relegation. Case in point, it looked as though the asking price was cut by 40% going from the EPL to the Championship. There’s no doubt that Recon will need to overhaul the team but with some additional investment, Aston Villa may get back into the top English league and access to the vast TV revenue those teams receive.
If the name “Randy Lerner” sounds familiar, it’s because he hasn’t had much luck in running sports teams in the past. In the NFL, as owner of the Cleveland Browns, Lerner kept the team languishing in the bottom of the NFL with small glimmers of hope. Lerner finally sold the Browns in 2012. Now, Lerner has a buyer for his soccer team. If history is any indication, you definitely don’t want Randy Lerner looking into buying into your favorite team.