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English Premier League: Randy Lerner puts Aston Villa up for sale

By CNN Staff
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner (right) has put the English Premier League club up for sale.
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner (right) has put the English Premier League club up for sale.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Randy Lerner decides to put EPL side Aston Villa up for sale
  • The American completed a takeover of the Midlands club in 2006
  • Lerner feels the time is right to take a break from football

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(CNN) -- He was one of a wave of American businessman to invest in an English Premier League club, but eight years down the line a weary Randy Lerner has beaten a retreat.

Lerner completed a £62.6 million ($105.7 million) takeover of Aston Villa from Doug Ellis back in 2006 -- one year after Malcolm Glazer won control of Manchester United, and one year before Tom Hicks and George Gillett bought Liverpool.

Yet despite enjoying early success at Villa Park with the club securing three straight sixth-place finishes under former manager Martin O'Neill, the 52-year-old has had to watch on in recent seasons as the team have struggled in the bottom half of the table.

The former owner of NFL team, the Cleveland Browns hinted last month that he was considering his position amid reports that a sale was imminent.

And he confirmed Monday that he has "engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the club's sale" as he seeks a much-needed break from the world of football.

"I have come to know well that fates are fickle in the business of English football," Lerner said in an official statement.

"The last several seasons have been week in, week out battles and having now come through this last season unfortunately limping amidst very meaningful injuries and constant sale rumors, I feel further that now is the time for me to look for new ownership and thus new leadership."

He added: "On a personal level it is time for me, like the Shunammite, to dwell among my own and get on with other aspects of my career, following a sale."

Much of Villa's success under O'Neill was aided by Lerner's willingness to invest millions on new players, such as Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing.

However, after ultimately being unable to break into the top four of the English Premier League and secure Champions League football, the American has had to embark on a cost-cutting program in recent seasons -- selling star players to rival clubs, including Young to Manchester United in 2011 and Milner to Manchester City in 2010.

The team's decline has led to some criticism of both Lerner's running of the club as well as the managers who have followed O'Neill -- Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert.

Lerner, though, is still grateful for the backing he has received from the majority of the club's supporters, while he is hoping Villa will go from strength to strength after his departure.

"I am appreciative of the support I have received, even in these last years of comparative struggle when criticism was due, and will look on with others -- with fingers crossed, for stronger future performance appropriate to our size and heritage," he said.

Lerner added: "Above all, the debt I owe Aston Villa whether as owner, chairman, custodian or simply as a fan is to put the club first. To make good on that debt, I owe it to Villa to move on, and look for fresh, invigorated leadership, if in my heart I feel I can no longer do the job."

While Lerner thanked Lambert for his efforts as manager since arriving in 2012, he did not mention the Scot's future.

Lambert may be disposed by the new owners following a disappointing season that culminated with the club finishing 15th.

Lerner's likely asking price for the club will be in the region of £200 million ($337.7 million), according to reports in the British media.

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