Saturday 16 December 2017

New Aston Villa owner Tony Xia sets sights high after buying out Randy Lerner

Randy Lerner has sold Aston Villa to the Chinese Recon Group, the club have announced.
Randy Lerner has sold Aston Villa to the Chinese Recon Group, the club have announced.

New Aston Villa owner Tony Xia has revealed ambitious plans for the club after his Recon Group completed their buy-out from former incumbent Randy Lerner.

Xia is targeting a return to the Premier League and a top six finish after current chairman Steve Hollis flew to China to seal the deal which brought Lerner's controversial tenure to a close.

Lerner had made no secret of his desire to sell the club since 2014 and was the subject of increasingly fractious protests during a dismal campaign which saw Villa relegated to the Championship.

A club statement read: " Aston Villa Football Club is pleased to announce that an agreement has been signed today for the sale of 100 per cent ownership by Randy Lerner to Recon Group owned by Dr Tony Jiantong Xia subject to the approval of the Premier League and the Football League.

"Once those approvals have been granted and the new board members approved under the fit & proper rules of both leagues, Dr Xia will become Chairman of Aston Villa. The club will announce the appointment of a new manager shortly."

Former Chelsea and West Brom boss Roberto Di Matteo has emerged as the early favourite for the role, with some reports suggesting the new Chinese owners have already been in touch to discuss the vacant position.

The statement continued: "Dr Xia's immediate objective is to return Aston Villa to the Premier League and then to have the Club finish in the top six, bringing European football back to Villa Park. He plans to make Aston Villa the most famous football Club in China with a huge fan base."

Recon Group is a holding company which has a controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges. Xia, a former footballer himself, claims to have been a Villa fan for some time.

His arrival will be welcomed by Villa fans who had become increasingly disillusioned with Lerner's reign, staging protests at a number of games this season.

A supporters group began an 'Out the door on 74' campaign, where some fans left during the home matches against Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea, making a stand after 74 minutes of play to symbolise the club's formation in 1874.

Lerner, who first signalled his intention to sell the club in 2014, penned a long and bizarre open letter to supporters on the club's website once the sale was confirmed, in which he likened their relegation campaign to "Bannockburn".

He wrote: "It was my hope that ownership and custodianship of the club would have been transferred some years ago when I knew that personal and professional matters made it impossible for me to contribute the time I did in my first five years at the club.

"Still, fates are fickle in football so that we could claw back to safety last season, end up at Wembley at a Cup final sitting amongst old friends, and then spend the 2015/16 campaign at Bannockburn!

"Being conscious of the popular and dark pastime of wondering aloud how much was spent or lost, I should like to think that I left behind value which will hopefully ensure and benefit this beloved old club."

Press Association

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