Villa agree sale to Chinese businessman

Aston Villa have been sold to Chinese businessman “Tony” Xia Jiantong, the club announced on Wednesday.

The deal is subject to approval from the Premier League and the Football League, with the BBC reporting that the deal is worth £60 million. Villa were relegated following after finishing bottom of the Premier League this month.

A Villa statement said: “Aston Villa Football Club is pleased to announce that an agreement has been signed for the sale of 100 percent ownership by Randy Lerner to Recon Group, owned by Xia Jiantong.

“Randy Lerner has sought the right new owner for Aston Villa who would take great care of the club and restore its fortunes. He believes that Xia Jiantong is an excellent choice.”

The businessman played football as a striker and the Villa statement said the game “has remained his passion.”

It added: “He became a fan of Aston Villa many years ago and is delighted at the opportunity to become the new owner.

“His immediate objective is to return Aston Villa to the Premier League and then to have the club finish in the top six, bringing European football back to Villa Park.

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

American billionaire Lerner, who bought the club 10 years ago for £62.2 million, put the team up for sale in 2014.

Chairman Steve Hollis has been in China to finalise the sale. Hollis, appointed in mid-January, has been working on a deal for several weeks.

Recon Group is a holding company which has a controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges.

Press Association reported that the prospective new owners would like former West Brom and Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo to be manager.

Villa fans staged protests against Lerner this season as the club slumped into the Championship, finishing in last place with just 17 points to their name.

Towards the end of the campaign, placards reading “Proud History, What Future?” were held up at matches.

Lerner, who first signalled his intention to sell the club in 2014, penned a long and bizarre open letter to supporters on the club’s website once the sale was confirmed, in which he likened their relegation campaign to “Bannockburn.”

He wrote: “It was my hope that ownership and custodianship of the club would have been transferred some years ago when I knew that personal and professional matters made it impossible for me to contribute the time I did in my first five years at the club.

“Still, fates are fickle in football so that we could claw back to safety last season, end up at Wembley at a Cup final sitting amongst old friends, and then spend the 2015-16 campaign at Bannockburn!

“Being conscious of the popular and dark pastime of wondering aloud how much was spent or lost, I should like to think that I left behind value which will hopefully ensure and benefit this beloved old club.”

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