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Lerner to take control of Aston Villa

Doug Ellis has sold his majority shareholding in the club to American tycoon Randy Lerner. Lerner has ended Ellis' reign as chairman of Villa with his bid Aston Villa have announced to the Stock Exchange a deal with Randy Lerner for the American billionaire to take control of the Premiership club. Four consortia had been linked with the Midlands outfit but the Villa board have recommended Lerner's £62.6 million bid. Lerner said: "It is my belief and the basis for my bid that Aston Villa can compete at the highest level within the Premiership and in Europe." Outgoing chairman Doug Ellis was at the helm between 1968-75 and from 1982. The 82-year-old has been the target of constant supporter unrest in recent seasons with fans upset at his lack of financial backing. But he said: "It has been my sincere pleasure to have been involved with Aston Villa these many years, both as chairman and as a substantial shareholder. "The club has been an enormous and immensely enjoyable part of my life. "I wish to thank the many staff at Aston Villa over the years for making the club what it has been and what it is. "I am sure this transaction will be the beginning of a new chapter in Aston Villa's proud history." Villa recently appointed Martin O'Neill as manager and each of the groups in the race to buy the club were reported to be happy with his appointment in the midst of the takeover battle. O'Neill is now likely to have more transfer funds available to spend before the transfer window closes on 31 August. Michael Neville, a local businessman and Villa fan, headed one group keen to assume control of the club while another was put together by Nicholas Padfield QC. Athole Still, the agent of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, was also believed to be interested in taking over. Lerner conducted the offer through his company Reform Acquisitions Ltd. He added: "The club has a rich history and a long tradition of passionate fan support." (BBC News)