Takeover Tales and Other Villa Vexations
So as another season heads towards its climax we yet again find the club subject to takeover speculation. This has happened in both of the last two summers and both times, for whatever reason, the speculation came to naught. Aston Villa remained in the hands of Randy Lerner.
So why, after two seasons of spent speculation and disappointment, do I think it will be different this time? Surely, after two non-events I should be jaded and resigned to another damp squib?
For me there are a couple of signs suggesting that something might be going on at last. First of all was the almost throwaway line in the club's recent statement following the resignation of key board members stating that chairman Steve Hollis was involved in 'extensive talks' with regard to a sale. Previous summers never featured an outright admission of this. The nearest we had was Lerner putting the for sale sign up last summer. It may be a ploy to produce hope ahead of season ticket sales but I sincerely doubt the club would behave so cynically.
As well as this, recently departed board member Mervyn King (whose resignation the statement came in the wake of) spoke about a prospective sale in a recent interview. King talked of 'the sale' and the chance that 'the events of the next few weeks' would hopefully put the club back towards 'where it should be'. As an ex-insider Lord King should have an insight into goings on either from events on his watch or from connections still at the club. Taken together, my interpretation of both these statements are that we might finally see the end of Lerner's custodianship before next season. At last!
So I have convinced myself that something will happen this summer but when will it happen and who will it be?
The short answer is that nobody seems to know anything with regard to a timescale or who the buyer might be. Speculation has suggested that things could be wrapped up in weeks. The complexities of takeovers means this would be unlikely unless a lot of work has gone on behind closed doors. Details may (possibly even will) emerge within weeks, but a completed takeover? I am not so sure.
There are similar issues with regards to who the buyers could be. Press reports have referenced everything from fan consortiums through to groups linked to Larry Ellison and Oracle and then through to Chinese investors. These links are all either completely non-specific and if they are more specific merely recycling of previous links. This to me suggests that the press have no idea at all of what is going on and are hedging their bets. I would not be surprised if, when a buyer emerges, they prove to be a surprise.
So is this takeover talk good news?
On the surface of it, yes, as it means we will finally be free of the incompetent, absentee hand of Lerner. That said it shouldn't be celebrated too much. First of all until the is and ts of a takeover agreement are dotted and crossed the club is in a state of stasis. Decisions can't be made with regard to the playing staff and plans for next season cannot be hatched until a deal is concluded. A manager may be approached and appointed with a new owner's approval but beyond that not much will happen.
I also think that people should not get too excited. Even when a new owner emerges their intentions, nous and willingness to invest won't be known until the long term. People get excited by bank balances and soundbites. However, being wealthy and saying the right things does not preclude the owner turning out like Cellino at Leeds or the Allams at Hull. I feel It is a case of once bitten, twice shy after the initial feel good factor under Lerner. I am sure, like myself, many other fans felt great excitement after Lerner brought in but in the ten long years since then he has veered from promising to disastrous. On the other hand an owner who has not got the bank balance of a Ellison or Wang Jianlin (neither of whom I see as likely) might be greeted with disappointment but prove sensible in the longer term and return Aston Villa to at least Premier League stability. So, yeah, I am not going to get excited this time round if a takeover occurs.
Of course, the uncertainty of takeover tales is not the only matter I, as a fan, feel vexed about right now. It seems that the twilight of the Lerner era continues to lurch from disaster to disaster. Not all of this is Lerner's fault and one such incident is current spat between caretaker manager Eric Black and defender Jores Okore. It seems to be an odd situation. Black claims Okore has refused to play whilst the Dane says he is lying. Okore, one careless interview about Champions League football aside, has always come across as one of our more sensible players so I'm not really sure why he would refuse to play or start an unseemly public spat.
I am not sure what the truth of the matter is. Perhaps it is, typical of any story that has two sides, one where the truth lies somewhere in-between. Black has nothing to gain from publicly lying about one of his playing staff when it can only cause trouble in a no-doubt fraught dressing room. Okore, meanwhile, would surely want to avoid causing upset with Villa fans if he stays and equally want to play to put himself in the shop window should he be intent on moving on. So neither has much to gain from this right now.
This spat is just the latest chapter of a litany of inglorious moments indicative of a rudderless organization that has been allowed to drift over the past few years. From pocket tweets of expensive cars through to players going out and getting Gabbied or Grealished the playing staff have disgraced themselves off the pitch. On the pitch it has been perhaps the most undignified and tamest Premier League exit ever seen from a club established at this level and a genuinely embarrassing time to be a Villa fan. Something has to make the madness stop. A takeover might as well be it. At least the speculation around it will take our minds off the madness in the short term. However, I shall not be getting too excited until things become crystal clear. Let's hope the next custodian is far more knowledgable and sensible than Lerner has been.
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It's imperative we're sold this year. It's crucial to the club's immediate and long term future. Let's hope Mervyn King was right when he mentioned "the next few weeks, seeing the club back on the right path" Here's hoping Mervyn!!
Thanks for the article
As much as relegation hurts, what hurts more is certain players going around giving it the Bertie Big Bollocks with their Tweets and Dubai trips, displaying a total lack of concern about how things have turned out because they've got their wedge, their possessions and their bling.
I only hope we can get rid of this vermin in the summer. I'm not holding my breath though.
In my opinion the sale is real, the preferred bidder should be known very soon, because the interested parties know that every day that passes is another financially damaging day for the business that they intend to buy.