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On this day in 2006: Randy Lerner takes control of Aston Villa

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers – Villa Park
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner took full control of Aston Villa on this day in 2006.

The billionaire American businessman paid £62.6million to increase his stake in the Premier League club to 85.5 per cent and take over as majority shareholder from the long-serving Doug Ellis.

He also assumed the position of chairman as he began a decade-long spell in charge at Villa Park.

Villa became regulars in the top six under Martin O'Neill

Villa became regulars in the top six under Martin O’Neill (Neil Tingle/PA)

“Aston Villa was a club I had already thought about for a long time as I became more familiar with the Premier League over the last three or four years,” said Lerner.

“It wasn’t a lifelong thing. It would be dishonest and disingenuous for me to suggest it was. It seemed like an opportunity to make a little bit of a difference.”

Lerner was initially a highly visible figure at the club and appeared to play a hands-on role. The early signs were encouraging with three successive top-six finishes under manager Martin O’Neill.

A decline set in, however, following the sudden resignation of O’Neill just five days before the start of the 2010-11 season.

Lerner became the focus of fan frustration in later years

Lerner became the focus of fan frustration in later years (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde all came and went as managers and the club dropped into the bottom half. Several years of struggle culminated in relegation from the top flight in 2016.

By then Lerner had already become a distant figure at Villa Park as well as the subject of fans’ frustration.

Efforts to sell the club, begun in 2014, were accelerated and a £76million deal was reached that summer with Chinese businessman Tony Xia, who in turn sold to current owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris in 2019.