Chinese businessman agrees Villa deal

Villa fans have protested at Lerner's ownership of the club

Villa fans have protested at Lerner’s ownership of the club

Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia has agreed to buy relegated Aston Villa for £60m.

The deal, which is subject to Football League approval, would see Xia take 100% ownership and become chairman.

American billionaire Randy Lerner, who bought Villa in 2006 for £62.2m, put the club up for sale in 2014.

A club statement said Lerner “sought the right owner to take care of the club and restore fortunes” and believes Xia is an “excellent choice”.

The Midlands club’s new manager – likely to be Nigel Pearson or Roberto di Matteo – will be announced shortly.

Xia needs to pass the relevant owners’ and directors’ test, and provide proof of finance before formally completing his takeover.

BBC Sport’s Pat Murphy told BBC Radio 5 live: “Randy Lerner’s tenure at the club is over. The new chairman is a prominent businessman and a seriously impressive business leader in China.”

Villa will play in the Championship next season following their relegation from the Premier League.

They finished bottom of the table with 17 points, sacking manager Remi Garde at the end of March.

Who is Dr Tony Xia?

He is the owner of Recon Group, a holding company that has the controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges, employing 35,000 people in 75 countries.

After graduating in China, he was among the initial 25 highly-rated graduates out of 1,000 sent to study overseas. He spent six years at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including five months exchange with Oxford University, before returning to China

Xia played football until he finished at college and the sport has remained his passion. He became a Villa fan “many years ago”, according to the club’s statement, and is “delighted” to become its owner.

What are his objectives?

The club say his first target is to return Villa to the Premier League. After that, he intends to lead the club into the top six, bringing European football back to Villa Park.

He also plans to make Villa “the most famous football club in China with a huge fanbase”.

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Aston Villa: How club went from Europe to relegation

What did Lerner say?

Lerner published a farewell letter on the club’s website in which he highlighted the number of young players that came through during his tenure.

The 54-year-old, who said he had an “affection for reading history”, listed restoring the Jacobean Holte Hotel at Villa Park and adding a mosaic at the Holte End among his achievements at the club.

He added: “I can offer no counter argument other than to say I would do the same all over.”

In what he said would be his final message to fans, Lerner stressed his aim had always been to strengthen the club’s infrastructure as well as the squad, but said he had found it difficult to commit time and effort in the past five years.

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