Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and Fortress Investment Group co-founder Wes Edens have agreed to buy a majority stake in Aston Villa, injecting funds into the English soccer team that narrowly missed rejoining the lucrative Premier League last season.
Tony Xia, the Chinese businessman that bought the club in 2016, will become co-chairman and will remain on the board, the team said in a statement on Friday. Sawiris and Edens’s group, NSWE, will acquire a 55 per cent stake in the team for about $39 million (Dh143.5m), people familiar with the matter said.
Most of the major English teams have been bought by wealthy foreign buyers in the past dozen years. Chelsea was taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Manchester United by the Glazer family and Liverpool by the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Aston Villa was acquired by Xia from US businessman Randy Lerner in May 2016.
Aston Villa dropped out of the top-ranked Premier League in 2016 and plays in the second-tier Championship division. After spending on new players in an attempt to be promoted back into the Premier League, with its lucrative broadcast revenues, the team lost to Fulham Football Club in the Championship final in May.
“To have come so close to achieving promotion last season was a humbling experience,” said Mr Xia. “In finding such strong partners as Nassef and Wes we’re gearing up to fight again and bring back the success that this club deserves and we all so want to provide it with.”
Missing out on the top league was a fall from grace for a team that won the European Cup in 1982. The Birmingham club is based in Villa Park, originally a Victorian amusement park that’s been the its home since 1887.
Mr Sawiris, whose wealth is estimated at $6.9 billion according to the Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, has several high-profile investments including in German shoemaker Adidas, cement firm LafargeHolcim and nitrogen-fertilizer company OCI NV, which he runs. Some of those stakes are held through his investment vehicle NNS Holding. Edens, an American businessman and private equity investor, is the co-owner of Milwaukee Bucks, a national basketball team.
“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,” Mr Sawiris and Mr Edens said in the statement. “Our priority is to strengthen the squads and structures ahead of the upcoming season and beyond.”