Aston Villa have been sold to a Chinese group owned by Dr Tony Jiantong Xia in a deal worth a reported USD 86 million.
Villa crashed out of the Premier League after a miserable season that saw the Midlands team win just three of their 38 matches, but that hasn’t stopped Xia making his move. US-based owner Randy Lerner had been trying to sell Villa for two years and has finally found a buyer after significantly lowering his asking price to a reported 60 million pounds (USD 86 million, 76 million euros).
Once those approvals have been granted and the new board members approved under the fit and proper rules of both leagues, Dr Xia will become Chairman of Aston Villa.
Lerner, who bought Villa in 2006 for around 60 million pounds, had hoped to sell the club for 200 million pounds, but the team’s dismal form over the last two seasons put off potential investors until his price cut.
Villa chairman Steve Hollis flew to China to complete the deal as soon as their woeful top-flight campaign was completed last weekend.
Villa are currently managerless after sacking Remi Garde in March, but former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson and ex-Chelsea chief Roberto Di Matteo are reportedly the leading candidates to step in now a takeover has been agreed.
Dr Xia and the new manager will take charge with Villa condemned to second tier action for the first time since 1987-88 and with morale among supporters at an all-time low after months of protests against Lerner and the underperforming players. Recon Group is Dr Xia’s privately owned holding company that owns the controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges and many other private companies employing 35,000 people in 75 countries.
According to Villa’s website, Dr Xia decided to buy “an iconic football Club in England as the cornerstone of his Sports, Leisure and Tourism Division”. The statement says he became “a fan of Aston Villa many years ago” and “played football as a striker until he finished at college”.
Dr Xia’s move for Villa comes after a glorious season for Thailand’s Srivaddhanaprabha family, who bought Leicester in 2010 and transformed the club into unlikely Premier League champions with the considerable help of manager Claudio Ranieri, in the process making them a huge hit in Asia. Now Dr Xia has set his sights of taking Villa back into the Premier League’s top six and attracting the backing of Chinese sports fans.