2016: No.5 - £900m
2015: No.4 - £950m
This time last year we thought it was going to be the last time that Randy Lerner appeared in the Birmingham Post Rich List. In May 2014 he announced that Aston Villa was up for sale.
But here we are 20 months later and Randy Lerner is still the owner. Rumours of takeovers by Americans, the Chinese or the Swiss have come and gone, as have a couple of managers.
Randy Lerner engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale with a reported asking price of between £150 million and £200 million. There have been no takers, and Aston Villa’s current performance in the Premiership is unlikely to bring potential buyers knocking the door down.
Meanwhile the door to the manager’s office is a revolving one. Paul Lambert departed to be replaced by Tim Sherwood, but the loss of key players left too big a whole and he was unable to turn the team’s performance round. He was followed by Frenchman Remi Garde who at least has the advantage of speaking the same language as much of the team. He made a promising start, holding Premiership leaders Manchester City to a draw, but since that points have been a rarity.
Villa has also returned to profitabioty. In 2014 the club announced a pre-tax profit of £1.57 million boosted by a £30 million rise in broadcasting and sponsorship deals. Turnover grew from £81.6 million to £110.5 million and average attendances wer a shade over 36,000. The club is financially self-sufficient and has reduced its operating costs.
Randy Lerner pocketed around £620 million from the sale of American football team, the Cleveland Browns to US businessman Jimmy Haslam in 2012.
He certainly can’t be accused of not being committed to Aston Villa during his time in charge – nor has he loaded it with debt as some overseas football club owners have done. He has poured money into the club and its facilities. On top of paying £62 million for the club nearly eight years ago he has invested heavily in equity and loans and has underwritten the club’s losses.
He has had more success selling his UK home than selling Aston Villa. In the spring he sold his converted £2.5 million farmhouse in Hurley near Bodymoor Heath, close to Villa’s training ground. His other home is in Amagansett, New York where he owns a restaurant and a shopping mall.
As well as a lover of football, he is an enthusiast for the arts; a fact underlined by his patronage of the National Portrait gallery with a gift of £5 million – the gallery’s biggest ever single gift. In acknowledgement of his generosity the ground floor galleries have been renamed The Lerner Galleries. He has also donated cash to Clare College, Cambridge where he spent a year studying in 1983 – to provide new residential accommodation for students. It has been named Lerner Court.
Randy Lerner, who is 53, inherited control of the Cleveland Browns in 2002 from his father Al Lerner when he died. Under the terms of the sale of the Browns he retains 30 per cent for four years.
He graduated from Columbia Law School and is a member of the New York and District of Columbia Bar Association. He worked as a lawyer in New York before entering the business world.
His business career began at the Progressive Corporation where he was an investment analyst. In 1991 he started an independent investment firm called Securities Advisors Inc, which he owned and managed until 2001. In 1993 he became a director at MBNA, of which his father was a founder. He became chairman of MBNA in 2002, selling the family’s interests three years later to Bank of America for more than £1.2 billion. The family’s investment in Bank of America, which has been posting losses and seeing shares slide, has fluctuated.
He was divorced from his wife Lara in 2011, and has four children.