5. (6) Randy Lerner £900m (£800m)
Feb 3 2010 Rich List
Aston Villa fans are notoriously fickle. Today’s hero can be tomorrow’s villain almost on a whim. So Randy Lerner is doing well.
Three years into his ownership of Villa, the fans still like him. They respect his support for manager Martin O’Neill and his understanding of the way the club ticks.
Although an American citizen, Brooklyn-born Randy Lerner makes it into our list not just as the owner of Aston Villa, but as a resident of the region, albeit part-time. He owns a property in Bodymoor Heath, close to Villa’s training ground.
That’s just one of the ways 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.
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, with a target of finishing in the Premiership top four at the end of the season. If Villa fails in this lofty ambition it won’t be through lack of support from its owner.
Randy Lerner, who is 47, 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.