Lerner wins battle for Villa as rival steps down

August 24, 2006

Randy Lerner has received the backing of former rival Michael Neville after finally winning the battle to take control of Aston Villa.

The consortium led by life-long Villa fan Neville had been striving for 10 months to become the new owners of the under-achieving midlands club.

But Neville's decision not to make a formal offer - along with another potential bidder in deputy judge Nicolas Padfield - has left the way clear for Lerner's £62.6million bid for Villa to be accepted.

It means the 57% of shares owned by Villa chairman Doug Ellis and Jack Petchey can now be formally transferred to 44-year-old Lerner who is the owner of NFL side Cleveland Browns.

And acquiring 75% of shares will mean Lerner assuming full control and being in a position to sanction moves in the transfer market by new manager Martin O'Neill.

O'Neill is desperate to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Neville believes that Lerner and O'Neill will provide the perfect combination to revive Villa and has retired graciously from the ownership battle.

He said: 'I did say publicly a few weeks ago that I hoped to put an official offer in for the club but, if my approach wasn't successful, my overriding wish was someone would gain control who had the overall resources to take the club forward - and that they would have my absolute and total support.

'All I have ever wanted is to see Aston Villa return to their rightful place competing for honours both domestically and in Europe.

'It is clear the overwhelming majority of supporters believe Randy Lerner's bid offers Aston Villa Football Club the most exciting future and a potential return to glory.

'After so many years of disappointment and mediocrity the ever-loyal Villa supporters deserve to see the club achieving the highest honours.

'I have come to the conclusion that, together with the brilliant Martin O'Neill as manager, Randy Lerner and his team have the right credentials, the necessary finances and the pooled resources to restore the club to where all of us supporters want to see it.

'With that in mind, I have decided to end my consortiums approach in order not to jeopardise the takeover in any way.

'I want to formally extend to Randy Lerner and his team the very best of luck and would ask him to help take the club back to the very top.

'I regret not being the person to bring forward the winning bid but I am confident the incoming group will do great things for our club both now and in the future.'