Rumours have been rife for months that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner is ready to end his eight year association with the club he paid £64 million for in 2006. The clearest indication yet came from a statement released through the club on Easter Sunday.
Media-shy American multi-millionaire Lerner surprised everyone when he released not one but two statements in a matter of days, with the second of particular interest in regards to speculation regarding a takeover bid. The statement didn't refer to any indication about a potential takeover bid, but no denial was made by the American about him not wanting to sell the club.
No one wants to see Aston Villa struggling for a fourth consecutive season, trying to avoid relegation (again) to the Championship. It is now at a stage where Randy Lerner needs to sell the club (reported asking price £250 million) for progression to finally happen after four years of going nowhere, but backwards.
Club statement regarding a potential takeover -
No official reports have been released regarding who could be behind the potential takeover bid, but reports and a source have revealed, “It could be a joint-takeover bid from two fellow American sports franchise owners, one potentially being the owner of NBA side Miami Heat, Micky Arison.”
Named as the 211th richest man in the world on Forbes' list of World Billionaires this year, 64 year old Arison is worth a reported $5.7 billion. He made his fortune from being the owner of the NBA franchise (Miami Heat) since 1995 in addition to being the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.
Could we be seeing Arison and LeBron James in attendance at Villa Park (or a renamed stadium) next season.
Randy Lerner has distanced himself from the club within the last few years. In truth since being heavily involved at the start of his £64 million investment back in 2006 (refurbishing The Holte Pub, sanctioning unlimited spending under Martin O'Neill and leaving the club debt free by converting £90 million of loans into equity) but has started to slowly lose interest.
Over the last two financial years Aston Villa have lost an unbelievable £86 million, £34 million in 2011-12 and £54 million in 2012-13, just another reason for the club's ownership to change hands after the end of the season.
Its not as simple as selling the club though, a complete overhaul is needed this summer so a fifth season of relegation (if we stay up this season) is avoided. Top to bottom, the hierarchy needs a drastic change, new owner, new board of directors (who have knowledge of the beautiful game), new manager and at least five new players. If Villa end up in the Championship the reported takeover will not happen.
Against Swansea yesterday, the club's third 4-1 defeat in five games, the atmosphere in the away end turned from volatile to poisonous. Fans again targeted Lambert with chants of "f**k off Lambert" and even some of the players, with chants of "what the f**king hell is this", after another embarrassing and clueless performance in defeat.
Firstly as soon as any takeover is completed, Aston Villa need to appoint someone with knowledge or/and past experience of being a director of football and who has the knowledge of how the game works, politically as well as a business.
Steve Stride resigned from his position as a director at the club seven months into Randy Lerner's tenure in May 2007 and it wouldn't be the worst decision in the world if Villa rehired him as their new director of football. I have recently read his book, cleverly titled 'Stride Inside the Villa', about his 25 years at the club and would recommend others to read itas well.
Cambridge graduate (MA in History) Paul Faulkner has been Villa's CEO since May 2010 and has more Premier League experience than Villa manager Paul Lambert. Some of the decisions sanctioned by Faulkner could easily of contributed to why Villa are limiting the purchase of players to those who don't command a hefty transfer fee and wage demands.
Players like Shay Given (£50,000 per week) and Emile Heskey (£40,000 per week) were signed for big money on long-term contracts and big money deals were also allowed for Habib Beye, Alan Hutton and Stephen Ireland.
Faulkner is now more involved within his work with the Football Association (FA) so hiring someone who knows about Aston Villa e.g. former Villa and England manager Graham Taylor or Villa legend Ian Taylor would make sense if a takeover were to happen.
Secondly manager Paul Lambert recently had the infamous honour of being the first manager in the club's 140 year history to lose at least 10 league games at home in one single season (still a game to go) and shortly after ended the patience of Villa's faithful after the 1-0 defeat away to Palace on 12th April.
This season managers have tactically outclassed Lambert home and away, resulting in Villa being dragged into a fourth season of relegation worry. The hard-lined facts are the majority of his signings have been ousted as not being of a Premier League standard and him only having one tedious dimensional of football, long 'hoof' ball.
On the player's front a new right-back, left-back, 'number 10', central-midfielder, 'real' winger and replacement for Christian Benteke (out injured until December) are needed.
Aston Villa need a new committed and knowledgeable owner who won't only spent big for one season (around £50+ million) but who will keep investing similar amounts for at least five seasons. The Liverpool model of hiring an exciting young manager (Brendan Rogers) and spending a constantly on transfer funds every season could well work for Aston Villa Football Club, instead of the model Manchester City and Chelsea have followed.
If hypothetically speaking Miami Heat's owner Micky Arison does take sole or joint ownership of Aston Villa Football Club we might see a committed owner (19 years at Miami Heat) take the club back to the heights of challenged for European football at the highest level. Undoubtedly the club can achieve it once again.