Chinese businessman completes $88mn Aston Villa takeover from US owner

© Jason Cairnduff
Chinese investment in football has taken another step forwards as billionaire businessman Tony Xia completed his $88 million takeover of English team Aston Villa, buying the club from its American owner Randy Lerner.

Xia, who owns multinational conglomerate Recon Group, pledged to turn Villa around after Randy Lerner's disastrous time at the club ended with relegation from the Premier League to the Championship.

A club statement read: "Aston Villa Football Club is pleased to announce that an agreement has been signed today for the sale of 100 percent ownership by Randy Lerner to Recon Group owned by Dr Tony Jiantong Xia subject to the approval of the Premier League and the Football League."

Former West Brom and Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo has reportedly been sounded out for the manager's job following the departure of Frenchman Remi Garde.

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Villa said Xia's immediate aim "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."

Ex-Everton chief executive Keith Wyness is expected to join the Villa board of directors, while Damien Comolli could become the club's director of football – the role he held at both Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

Xia's ambitious plans for Villa will be welcomed by supporters who had called for Lerner to sell the club after failing to invest significantly since Martin O'Neill's time as manager ended in 2010.

Lerner released a statement saying he thought Xia was the right man to take Villa forward.

"Tony has built his career around infrastructure," it read. "He is certainly a hugely successful businessman but importantly for me he is passionate about architecture, site design and planning.

"His commitment to invest in the squad, and leadership at [Aston Villa’s training ground] Bodymoor Heath was expressed early on but as we visited together, and had some unrushed time to discuss his plans, Tony's excitement to develop Villa Park shone through.

"I remain convinced that this is a crucial part of the club's future as it provides a critical, long-term second source of revenue and therefore sustainability for the club from which squad-funding can potentially come.

"It is with that that I want to say thank you, and to wish Tony every success going forward."

Xia's Recon Group owns the controlling interest in five publicly-listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges.

It employs 35,000 people in 75 countries, taking in infrastructure, IT, and health.

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