Lerner puts England's Aston Villa up for sale

AFP, Monday 12 May 2014

Aston Villa's American owner Randy Lerner intends to sell the club, he said Monday.

Lerner took control of the English Premier League side in 2006 after a £62.6m takeover ($105.7 million) that saw him buy out the Birmingham team's longstanding former owner, Doug Ellis.

"I owe it to Villa to move on, and look for fresh, invigorated leadership, if in my heart I feel I can no longer do the job," Lerner said in a statement.

Villa struggled in the 2013-14 season, finishing 15th in the Premier League, just five points above the relegation places.

The announcement from Lerner was widely expected after he said last month he would address speculation about his future after the end of the season.

"Several weeks back I said that following the end of the season I would clarify my future role with the club, and address what had become seemingly constant rumours of a sale," Lerner added Monday after a season that finished with Sunday's disappointing 3-0 loss away to Tottenham Hotspur.

"I have come to know well that fates are fickle in the business of English football.

"And I feel that I have pushed mine well past the limit."

Meanwhile the status of Villa manager Paul Lambert hangs in the balance.

Lerner took over at Villa Park promising to make the 1982 European Cup winners, long regarded as a 'sleeping giant' of the English game, a force once more.

Villa did make two trips to Wembley in 2010, reaching the League Cup final and the FA Cup semi-final.

But the exit of manager Martin O'Neill, following a reported disagreement with Lerner over transfer policy prior to the 2010/11 season, sparked a slump.

Lerner's successive appointments of Gerard Houllier and former Birmingham manager Alex McLeish failed to impress the Villa faithful and Lambert's tenure has largely been about top-flight survival.

- 'Time is right' -

And for Lerner, who compared his position to the Biblical figure of the Shunammite woman, it was clear enough was enough.

"The last several seasons have been week in, week out battles and having now come through this last season unfortunately limping amidst very meaningful injuries and constant sale rumours, I feel further that now is the time for me to look for new ownership and thus new leadership," he also said on Monday.

He added: "On a personal level it is time for me, like the Shunammite, to dwell among my own and get on with other aspects of my career, following a sale.

"Above all, the debt I owe Aston Villa whether as owner, chairman, custodian or simply as a fan is to put the club first...Finally, in light of the above, I have engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale of Aston Villa."

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