Chinese businessman to buy English football club Aston Villa



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Aston Villa Stadium

A Chinese businessman has agreed to buy historic English football club Aston Villa, the latest in a series of investments from China into football worldwide as President Xi Jinping looks to make the country a global powerhouse in the sport.

The deal, reportedly worth 60 million pounds ($88 million), will see the chairman of Recon Group, Xia Jiantong, become the first mainland Chinese to fully own an English team.

The Aston Villa deal offers 100 per cent ownership to the Chinese magnet.

Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner, who put the club on the market in 2014, struck the deal after former English champions Villa suffered a miserable season that left them relegated from the country’s top football league.

Recon Group, Xia’s privately owned holding company, owns a controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges.

The deal with American-educated Xia, 39, ends an unhappy tenure for Lerner, who bought the midlands club for 62.2 million pounds in 2006. Fans have openly demonstrated against his continued involvement with Villa, who were European champions in 1982 and have won the English top-flight title seven times.

Xia, who studied at Harvard University and has a doctorate, took to his official microblog late on Wednesday to wish the club’s fans “health and happiness”. Earlier this month he posted: “Go, Villa, Go! We will be back.”

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