Sat, Aug 26, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Lerner set to take over Villa after rival fails to match bid

RANDY VILLAN The owner of the Cleveland Browns is set to replace long-serving Doug Ellis as the chairman of the famous Premiership side


Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner is poised to take over Aston Villa after a rival consortium failed to match his bid to buy the once great soccer club on Thursday.

A consortium led by Michael Neville and Nicolas Padfield was unable to meet the ?62.6 million (US$118.8 million) bid put forward by Lerner on Aug. 14 to buy Villa, one of the oldest clubs in English soccer.

"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," Neville said.

The board of the Birmingham-based team recommended Lerner's bid to shareholders, and said owners of 56.85 percent of the shares were committed to the deal.

Lerner is expected to take over from chairman Doug Ellis, who has run the Premier League club for more than 30 years and owns 39 percent of the stock.

Lerner would be the second US owner of a Premier League team, and fourth foreign owner. Last year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer took over at Manchester United, one of the most popular teams in the world.

Aston Villa, established in 1874, is one of only four English teams to win the European Cup -- Europe's top club competition.

The team has slumped recently, however, and hasn't won the English league title since 1981.

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