You heard it here first. In the 2008 Birmingham Post Rich List we gave you the exclusive news that Brooklyn-born Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner was buying a house near Birmingham. A few weeks later it was confirmed by the man himself. He is renovating a property in Bodymoor Heath, close to Villa’s training ground. In fact that’s just one of the ways in which the US entrepreneur and lawyer is differentiating himself from some other overseas owners of British soccer clubs. He is immersing himself in his adopted city and country, its culture and its heritage. And he is treating the club he owns with respect. He understands that it is a venerable institution with a long history and proud heritage, not simply an investment vehicle to be laden with debt.
As well as a lover of football, he is deeply appreciative of 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. I’ve scoured the country for the Glazer Galleries or the Abramowitz Art Museum but don’t seem to be able to find them. And he continues to bankroll Villa manager Martin O’Neill’s transfer ambitions, allowing O’Neill to set the pace at which the team is developed. He has also spent £4 million on the much needed renovation of the historically important Holte Hotel, the only surviving remnant of the Victorian Aston Lower Grounds. Randy Lerner, who is 46, also owns American football team the Cleveland Browns. His interest in Aston Villa began in 1983 when he spent a year at Clare College, Cambridge. He followed the team, along with Arsenal and Fulham.
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 on his father’s death in 2002, selling the family’s interests three years later for more than £1.2 billion.
His £62.6 million takeover of Aston Villa was generally well received by Villa supporters, and will continue to be so while he appreciates that heritage is an intrinsic part of a football club.
He is married to Lara and has three children.