Rumours of an impending takeover of Aston Villa have been swirling seemingly nonstop for a couple of years now. In the wake of one of the club's most tumultuous weeks in recent history, though, they seem to be finally gaining a little bit of traction in the mainstream press. The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Guardian are all reporting stories that either feature news on an impending takeover or obliquely reference it.
On a possible takeover
On a possible takeover
The common thread among all of the stories is that Villa may be sold for somewhere around £200 million this summer if they can manage to stay in the Premier League. And really, that makes a lot of sense, as the Premier League comes with a guaranteed £40 million in television revenues. That's on top of sponsorship money, which was £5 million for Villa this year, but as much as £30 million for Arsenal. A drop to the Championship would see both of those figures decline significantly, and make purchasing Villa a significantly less lucrative deal.
Even the £200 million price -- which seems to be the lowest being reported -- is absurdly high, given the club's current standing. Last summer Fulham were sold for £190, and they actually seem to be a fairly comparable club. That price, though, includes a bit of inflation for their location in London. Birmingham, lovely city that it is, won't command the same money, especially to an international buyer.
Finally, that's the other commonality in the stories: the buyer is not English. This will, if true, inevitably anger some. Most of the reports seem to focus on Americans, though the Daily Mail floats the idea of a Russian billionaire (an idea that they wisely point out could be torpedoed by the current political hullabaloo between Russia and the rest of the world). The mention of a billionaire in Texas -- in conjunction with the forthcoming trip to Houston and Dallas -- instantly called Mark Cuban to mind, but that's simply speculation on speculation.
Jack and I talked pretty extensively about the possible ramifications of a takeover on yesterday's podcast, and I also covered the possibility a little bit earlier this week. My general thoughts remain the same, though. I'm not convinced that there is much to this story. All three reports are terribly sourced, with all three citing unnamed "sources." That doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, and given the way the British press works, it seems likely that someone, somewhere, had sources, and everyone else is just reporting that.
But there is enough here to make me wonder if it isn't true. The club are in a position that Randy Lerner must certainly be ready to sell. He's not making money, and it's hardly prestigious to be the owner of a club that most of the world could not care less about. The trip to Texas, a seemingly random decision a few weeks ago, makes more sense if there is a potential Texan buyer. They can get the club and then proudly parade them in a trumped-up marketing event.
If the club really are for sale, it will unquestionably alter the face of this franchise. We have no way of knowing if it will be for good or bad, but it can't possibly be anything but interesting. It's intriguing to see this story finally make its way beyond message boards and into the press, so we will be sure to keep tabs on it for you.