Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis's personal wealth soared by about #5 million yesterday as the club confirmed moves that could lead to it being sold.

The club's shares rocketed by more than a quarter, from #3.71 to #4.72 at the end of trading, during the day following earlier rumours of a #60 million Russian takeover.

Villa described weekend speculation that an aggressive bid would be launched this week as unfounded, but said it had received a "preliminary approach" which could lead to an offer.

Villa's market value increased from less than #40 million to #54 million, leaving Ellis (pictured) about #5 million richer thanks to his 38 per cent share of the club.

The latest approach was not believed to be from a Russian consortium which was rumoured to be preparing a bid in which #75 million would be injected into the team.

Shareholder groups last night said they were optimistic a potential bid for Villa could now be made as they had never witnessed such a massive increase in the share price.

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The development follows a failed #4-a-share bid for the club from former Birmingham City player Ray Ranson a few weeks ago. That takeover attempt was described as " inadequate" by Ellis, who did not even meet Ranson for face-to-face talks.

A source close to the Ranson bid claimed the latest overtures would also fail as Ellis would not sell the club at any price.

He said: "Ellis once said that he would only leave Villa Park in a box and I certainly feel that is the case.

"It would not matter if a Russian like (Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich came in for Villa and was talking about humungous amounts of money - Ellis would not sell.

"When Ray came in, his bid was described as 'inadequate'. But I have been involved with lots of takeovers, and what usually happens at that stage is both parties come together and find a figure that is 'adequate'.

"That did not happen at Villa because Ellis will never call it a day. It is not about money, nothing will happen as long as Doug is still in power."

The statement issued to the Stock Exchange by the club said: "The Directors of Aston Villa plc have noted the weekend press comment and the consequent rise in the share price of the company.

"The board wish to make it clear that the press comment is inaccurate and unfounded. However, the board has received a preliminary approach which could lead to an offer for the company."

Jonathan Fear, from fans' group Villa Fans Combined, said he did not know who was behind the latest approach but was "amazed" at the price.

He said: "We usually see the share price rise with rumours but I have never seen anything like this. I couldn't believe it had risen by more than a #1.

"A lot of times it has been false dawns at the Villa, but hopefully something might be happening this time."

Ellis and the board were heavily criticised by former deputy chief executive Mark Ansell earlier this month for rejecting out of hand Ranson's #47 million takeover bid that included a substantial cash injection for new players. Ansell said the bid was never put to the club's wider stakeholders for consideration.

Aston Villa last night said it had nothing to add to the statement issued to the Stock Exchange.