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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Lerner seals majority Villa share
Prospective Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner
Lerner has not ruled out renaming Villa Park
Billionaire Randy Lerner has secured a majority holding in Aston Villa.

The London Stock Exchange announced on Friday that 44-year-old Lerner, who owns the Cleveland Browns NFL team, also now possesses 59.69% of Villa.

The Villa board accepted the American's 62.6m offer on 14 August, after consortia led by Michael Neville and Nicolas Padfield failed to table a bid.

The 57% of the club owned by chairman Doug Ellis and fellow shareholder Jack Petchey will now be transferred.

There's also obviously money to be invested in the playing squad

Keith Harris (Randy Lerner's advisor)

Lerner will need to acquire 75% of the shares to assume full control of the club.

Aston Villa Shareholders' Association held an EGM on Thursday and voted to sell their shares to Lerner, in effect disbanding after 34 years.

Ex-Football League chairman Keith Harris, who negotiated the deal on behalf of Lerner, told BBC Radio Five Live: "We would expect in the next week for other shareholders to follow suit and then there might be good news."

Harris also said cash would be made available to new manager Martin O'Neill. "Buying the club for 63m-odd is the entry ticket. There is money to be invested certainly in the long-term future, which involves money being spent on bringing the training facilities up to date.

"There is money to be spent on the stadium. There is money to be invested in marketing. But there's also obviously money to be invested in the playing squad."

Lerner is expected to replace 82-year-old Ellis, who was chairman from 1968-75 and then took over again in 1982, at the helm of the club.

But he will appoint a chief executive - a post that has been vacant at Villa since Bruce Langham left 15 months ago.

Local businessman Neville had been leading a consortium for 10 months in the hope of taking over at Villa.

But he decided not to table a formal offer and has now backed Lerner to help restore Villa's fortunes.

"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," said Neville.

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"With that in mind, I have decided to end my consortium's 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."

The transfer window closes on 31 August and O'Neill, who has been in regular contact with Lerner over recent weeks, is keen to strengthen his squad.

If Lerner was to take a 90% stake in the club he could compulsarily acquire the other 10% and take the club into private ownership.

That has drawn comparisons with the takeover of Manchester United by Lerner's fellow American Malcolm Glazer, but Harris insisted the two deals were completely different.

"From the fans' point of view, they have welcomed him (Lerner)," Harris told Five Live. "The Villa fans want change."

Harris added: "Randy has inherited a club without borrowing huge sums of money which would be needed to service a debt."

SEE ALSO
Learning about Lerner
15 Aug 06 |  Aston Villa
Lerner agrees takeover of Villa
14 Aug 06 |  Aston Villa
Lerner to take low-key Villa role
20 Aug 06 |  Aston Villa


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