Lerner closes in on complete control of Villa

September 5, 2006

American Randy Lerner has moved closer to assuming full control at Aston Villa and confirmed today he is approaching the 90 per cent of shares required to force all remaining holders to sell their stock.

That same 90 per cent mark is the level of shareholder support required by Lerner's Reform Acquisitions Ltd (RAL) company before the takeover can be complete.

Villa said in a statement: 'Supporters should be aware that the situation remains ongoing and that this announcement, whilst reflecting shareholder acceptance of 85.5 per cent, does not constitute an end to the takeover process.

'RAL's offer for the company remains conditional on 90 per cent shareholder acceptance.'

Lerner has taken his conditional holding to 85.5 per cent in a short space of time and is poised to replace Doug Ellis as chairman.

However Villa stated: 'At this time, supporters should be aware that the existing board of directors, who recommended shareholders accept RAL's offer, currently remains in place.'

RAL announced on August 25 that the first closing date for his offer to shareholders would be September 4.

Under Stock Exchange rules, Lerner was obliged to provide an update today and he has now extended the offer until September 18.

Takeover stipulations mean he requires 75 per cent of shares to gain control, but 90 per cent is the magic figure for the dollar billionaire.

He is determined to gain 100 per cent control and once he reaches 90 per cent can compulsarily buy up the remaining shares.

Lerner now possesses 9,790,187 of the 11,449,245 shares in Villa.

Lerner, whose wealth has been estimated at 1.3billion US dollars - £682million - had his £62.6million offer for Villa accepted by long-serving chairman Ellis, who recommended it to shareholders. It amounted to 547 pence per share.

With Ellis ready to stand aside, and Lerner already introduced to the Villa Park crowd as the new chairman, the team have made a strong start to the Premiership season under new boss Martin O'Neill.

Before today's announcement, Lerner revealed he monitored events at Villa Park for more than three years before buying, but admitted it was not a 'lifelong' dream.

The Cleveland Browns owner told BBC Radio Five Live: 'Aston Villa was a club I had already thought about for a long time as I became more familiar with the Premier League over the last three or four years.

'I just became more and more focused, the people I was working with in London had advised I continue to stay focused and that it (Villa) may be available, Mr Ellis may be of a mind to sell it and it kind of built on itself.

'It wasn't a lifelong thing. It would be dishonest and disingenuous for me to suggest it was. It seemed like an opportunity to make a little bit of a difference.'

Lerner admits his job has been made easier by the appointment of O'Neill, by Ellis.

'I think Martin O'Neill is great,' Lerner added. 'I think he's got the record, the history and the makings for a steady long-term commitment to Villa. That's the plan.'