What a difference a month makes for Aston Villa

August 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Aston Villa are currently third in the Championship table with a 100% record from their first two matches and supporters may be dreaming of promotion this season.

It’s quite the turnaround, as a month ago Villa were facing a winding up order and threatened to go out of business before Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens came in to save the club.

Now, the Midlands outfit have enjoyed their best start to a season this century and things are looking up. What a difference a month makes.

Previous uncertainty over the future of Xia, Bruce and Grealish

After Aston Villa missed a tax payment, Tony Xia’s future at the club was in doubt. Many felt he could sell the club and depart, but the Chinese Businessman said himself in a club statement that he wanted an investor to make up the shortfall.

Xia had no intention of leaving, as he clearly felt he could find financial backing, but it was a nervy period for supporters before Sawiris and Edens were announced. The Midlands outfit were barely surviving from month to month, racking up a lot of debt in the process and Xia’s statement revealed the sales of key players could chip away at the deficit – leading to Jack Grealish speculation.

After failing to achieve promotion in his two seasons as Villa manager, Steve Bruce may have lost his job had it not have been for the club’s spiralling finances. Sacking the experienced boss would mean compensation, something the club had little money for. Bruce was in a strong position and was backed by the club’s new owners, so he’ll remain in charge for at least another season. Could it be third-time lucky?

Promotion the aim again for Villa

After such a good start, it’s hard to temper expectations. Villa are third in the Championship table with six points from their first two games after beating Hull City 3-1 and Wigan Athletic 3-2. There’s still plenty of the season remaining, but they’ve confounded their critics to start well amid all the previous uncertainty.

The Midlands outfit reached the playoffs final last season, losing to Fulham at Wembley. They were fourth that campaign, seven points adrift of an automatic promotion spot. With Bruce still in charge and the squad having kept all but one of its important stars – John Terry could retire after leaving Villa – their squad is more than capable of improving upon 2017/18.

Time will tell if they can deliver, however.

Sawiris and Edens complete Aston Villa takeover

July 29, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens completed a successful takeover of Aston Villa, buying a controlling stake of 55%, while previous owner Tony Xia will be co-chairman and will remain on the board. The pair have each bought 27.5% of the club which costed them £30m. Sawiris has become executive chairman while Eden is co-chairman.

The pair said in a statement: “As lifelong football fans, we are excited and privileged to have become part of this great club. We believe that together we bring business and sports experience that will help strengthen the club to ensure Aston Villa can return to its rightful place in the upper echelons of English football.

“Our goal is to bring sustainable success to the club, building on its rich history while respecting its loyal fan base and unique culture. We understand that we are stewards of Aston Villa on behalf of the fans and we take that responsibility seriously. We (will) undertake a thorough assessment and evaluation in the coming weeks. Our priority is to strengthen ahead of the upcoming season.”

The company behind the takeover is a jointly-owned venture called NSWE, comprise of the initials of both businessmen. It’s believed they will immediately inject capital into the club, meaning Villa’s financial problems could be coming to an end. Manager Steve Bruce has had their backing to remain in charge, ending any speculation over his immediate future.

Who are the new owners?

Sawiris is a 57-year-old businessman who is executive chairman for the NNS Group – an investment company – who are a large shareholder in US Private Equity firm Bruins Sports Capital and Adidas AG, of whom the Egyptian and Belgian citizen is on the board of. Most importantly, Sawiris is CEO of a £4.7m Dutch listed global Nitrogen fertiliser and industrial chemicals producer.

As for Edens, the 56-year-old is co-founder and co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, founded in 1998 with £395m. Wes helped grow the business to £31.27bn AUM as of March 31, 2018. He became co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise in 2014 and created eSports franchise, FlyQuest, in 2017.  The pair have been highly successful in their past business ventures and Villa fans will be hoping the trend continues during their time in the Midlands.

The good news is that the club’s long-term future looks a little brighter thanks to the investment from Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, but it’s certainly worrying having seen Keith Wyness sacked, Steve Round depart the club and Tony Xia still be co-chairman despite his actions almost putting Villa out of business. Hopefully the takeover will see a turnaround in fortunes.

Xia following same footsteps as Lerner, statement lays bare Villa’s problems

July 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
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Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia hasn’t addressed supporters on social media directly since June 27. Previously, the Chinese businessman couldn’t go more than a day or two without posting updates about new developments at Villa Park, but it seems he’s deliberate distancing himself from the fans.

Randy Lerner did the same during his time as Villa’s owner. He hardly came to games in the latter years and seldom released statements about the club to its supporters. Before admitting he was putting the club up for sale, he announced a ‘sell-to-buy’ policy, with the idea that self-sufficiency was important.

Many people saw through his words, and now Xia is playing the same trick but with less subtlety. If reports are to be believed and Villa are in genuine danger of going out of business unless they find an investor, the next few weeks will be more than troubling.

Any player in the squad with a modicum of value in the transfer market will be deemed expendable. Eventually Xia is going to have to sell the club and take a loss. He wants to retain a controlling stake in any takeover, but beggars can’t be choosers.

His statement, released on July 6, laid bare all the problems the club have.

  • I have not put the club up for sale

The club may not be officially up for sale, but Xia actively states he needs an investor to keep Villa afloat.

  • I would consider minority investment stakes that bring strategic value to the club to help us achieve our goals, but this will be considered extremely carefully.

The ‘minority’ investor at Villa would be required to provide the majority of capital, so questions should be asked how Xia plans to convince somebody to invest the majority of money for a minority stake.

  • I have not received an offer of 51%. I have received an offer of 30% but we did not believe there was strategic value and we did not know the source of the money

When Xia’s name was linked with Villa in 2016, little was known about him, but he was telling fans not to worry about dubious claims. It turns out those fears two years ago were warranted.

  • FFP is a burden and we need to work within the defined parameters over the course of the next 12 months and beyond and as we have done in the previous 12 months
  • To be clear, to meet FFP we need to player trade. No shareholding sale of any size will contribute to meeting FFP. We must reduce costs and increase revenue

Financial Fair Play was already introduced by the time Xia took over Aston Villa, but he still sanctioned a summer spend of over £70m in 2016/17 and has been paying the price ever since.

When Xia says ‘player trade’ he means player sale. Latest reports state there’s no money to make loan signings, so solutions may have to be from within – academy, reserve squad.

  • Selling any size of shareholding in the club will not aid in respect to FFP

Xia is admitting that the club needs an investor and will have to make its own money through player sales to avoid a punishment over breach of FFP. Keeping the club in business is only half the battle.

  • Steve Bruce remains in charge with my support

Villa can’t afford to sack Bruce and pay his compensation – something the experienced manager is acutely aware of. He won’t leave unless he’s pushed, even though the 2018/19 campaign could be disappointing for the Midlands outfit.

  • There is significant football experience within our playing department and our football administration team who will be supported by the club admin team.

An interesting quote to make given Technical Director Steve Round and chief executive Keith Wyness have departed the club in recent weeks…

All in all, Villa are living month to month financially and need an investor to keep them afloat over the long-term.

Xia has been separating himself from fans and has warned them that high-profile sales will be required this summer, but will he be one of them jumping ship?

Are Aston Villa resigned to losing Jack Grealish?

June 21, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Transfer News 

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 03: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Reading at Villa Park on April 3, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Aston Villa will employ dramatic cost-cutting measures this summer to try and rectify their financial situation which could result in their best asset, Jack Grealish, being sold.

After failing to gain promotion from the Championship this summer, the Midlands club have an uncertain future as their financial security was dependent on them returning to the Premier League.

Chairman Dr Tony Xia is reported to be looking for a buyer for Aston Villa, meaning a second takeover in two years looks on the cards and there could be a lot of high-profile exits to make up the financial deficit caused by Xia’s risky strategy.

The Villans have been trimming the wage budget, letting Gabriel Agbonlahor and Chris Samba’s contracts expire without a renewal being considered and Grealish could follow them through the exit door.

Tottenham and Liverpool interested in Grealish

The creative attacking-midfielder has an asking price of £40m this summer. Tottenham are believed to be negotiating for half the fee, while Liverpool could lodge a bid greater than Spurs to land Grealish’s signature.

There’s no question of the 22-year-old staying at Villa Park. He’s open to joining a big club that can offer Premier League and Champions League football and Villa desperately need the money.

Grealish made 110 appearances in all competitions for Villa and become a fan favourite last season after setting the Championship alight. He would be a good signing for a manager looking to develop young talent and a move will boost his chances of getting in the England national team in the future.

Grealish departure could have damaging knock-on effect

If other players see that Villa are actively selling their best talents, they could also seek to leave this summer. Promotion looks a distant dream in 2018/19 if the likes of Grealish are allowed to leave, and players such as James Chester, Henri Lansbury, Conor Hourihane, Albert Adomah and Jonathan Kodjia could follow.

Clubs will target Villa’s stars, knowing they can sign them at a cut price due to the seriousness of their financial situation. Players will be open to a move as the club aren’t likely to move forwards next season and the task of merely consolidating in the Championship becomes the sole focus.

There won’t be any investment in the club this summer while Xia remains the owner. Instead a summer exodus looks on the cards and players from the youth teams being prematurely promoted to take their place. Grealish is almost certainly leaving and he won’t be the only one.

 

Aston Villa in meltdown and face an uncertain future

June 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia.

Aston Villa have had an eventful few weeks, losing in the Championship playoff final to Fulham, dealing with rumours that chairman Tony Xai was looking to cut his losses and run, while having a manager unaware of his future at the club.

Things have spiralled even further as the Villans’ have recently suspended their chief executive over a missed tax payment. The Midlands outfit have been served with a winding up order by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and have one week to pay.

Villa are in meltdown.

CEO suspended

Aston Villa released a statement on Tuesday that revealed chief executive Keith Wyness had been suspended as a result of the winding up order from HMRC. Villa reportedly missed the tax payment on Friday and face a winding up order if the money isn’t paid within seven days.

“Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that Chief Executive, Keith Wyness, has been suspended by the club with immediate effect. Owner and Chairman, Dr Tony Xia will assume the role until further notice,” the statement read.

Wyness was appointed CEO in 2016, not long after Xia completed his takeover of Villa. He’s worked with Aberdeen and Everton in the past, but it’s unknown if he’ll return to Villa or be removed from his position.

Manager future unknown

Villa manager Steve Bruce is currently in the dark about his future at the club. The Midlands outfit are resigned to a third consecutive season in the Championship and Xia hasn’t made any guarantee that he’ll be taking charge of the club for 2018/19.

The 57-year-old was appointed Villa manager in October 2016 and led the club to 13th in the Championship (2016/17) and fourth the following season. Villa lost to Fulham in the playoff final and now Bruce doesn’t know where he stands.

Bruce won promotion to the Premier League four times as a manager, but he may not make it a fifth with Villa. The club are set to overhaul the squad to ensure they meet with Financial Fair Play regulations, meaning they could struggle in the Championship next season. If so many players are forced to depart, Bruce may feel promotion is impossible which could see him step down.

Club up for sale amid financial ruin?

Xia already admitted big changes were needed at Villa to meet with FFP this summer, saying: “We are all aware that we will face severe FFP challenges next season. I am an Aston Villa fan. But I am also a businessman. We have been heavily investing for the past two seasons. However, the (playoff final) loss means that we need to change a lot of things”.

Such issues could see Xia putting the club up for sale and cutting his losses, as a consortium headed by ex-football agent Matt Southall is reportedly keen to purchase Villa. If Xia gets back the £60m he paid to Randy Lerner for the Midlands club in 2016, he may sell up. Villa need to cut their costs drastically and won’t be promotion contenders if abiding by FFP regulations sees them losing all their best players.