New Villa chief executive says Ellis wants to take a 'back seat'

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The Independent Online

Doug Ellis wants to take a "lesser role" at Aston Villa, the Premiership football club where he is chairman, according to the company's new chief executive.

Bruce Langham, the former chief executive of Fulham, was unveiled yesterday as Villa's new boss. He said Mr Ellis wanted to take a "back seat" even though "Deadly Doug", as Mr Ellis is known to a string of ex-managers and chief executives, is continuing as executive chairman.

"Doug wants to take a lesser role in the club and take a back seat. We will work together on all aspects of running the football club but the day to day running will be in my hands," Mr Langham said yesterday.

Villa said it had conducted a full search process before appointing Mr Langham. Trevor Birch, the former Leeds chief executive, had previously denied rumours linking him with the Villa job.

Mr Langham left Fulham last November after a falling out with its owner, Mohamed Al Fayed. "It's fair to say our personalities didn't match," Mr Langham said of his working relationship with the Fulham owner.

However, his new chairman is unlikely to be a pushover. Mr Ellis is known for his strident views on how the club should be run. As a 38 per cent shareholder he has long held the midlands club on a short leash, much to the annoyance of some supporters and shareholders.

Asked what the secret of a successful relationship with Mr Ellis would be, Mr Langham said: "I don't know. I haven't discussed it yet. I've signed a contract and I'm confident that we can find a perfectly compatible working relationship."

Mr Langham refused to comment on the Villa board's recent decision to reject a £33m approach led by Ray Ranson, the former footballer turned financier. He said he was looking forward to a long and fruitful period as the club's chief executive.

However, one of the first things he will have to deal with are the attentions of Mr Ranson and his bidding partner Richard Thompson, the former chairman of Queen's Park Rangers.

Mr Ranson has held talks with Mr Ellis about selling his stake in Villa but the discussions ended after the two sides failed to agree on a price.

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