Irish magnates pull out of £64m Villa takeover

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The Independent Football

The proposed £64m take-over of Aston Villa, which would have seen the octogenarian chairman Doug Ellis finally relinquish control of the Premiership club, appears to have fallen through after the Irish property magnates linked with the deal decided not to proceed.

Brian and Luke Comer, the Galway-born, Hertfordshire-based brothers who were attracted to Villa by the prospect of developing land owned by the club within the grounds of Villa Park, are understood to regard Ellis' valuation as too high given the location and nature of the property and the price being sought.

After negotiations which started in the autumn, the Cromers have withdrawn. The Solihull entrepreneur and lifelong Villa supporter Michael Neville will now try to find fresh investors for his consortium, which was reported to have offered 560p per share to buy the majority shareholding, held by Ellis and the businessman Jack Petchey.

The failure of the take-over will come as a blow, if not an unexpected one, to the Villa manager, David O'Leary. The one-time free-spender at Leeds United had hoped to have funds for strengthening one of the top division's smallest squads during the January transfer window.

Club sources, who had claimed the delays were caused by the legal process of "due diligence", have yet to confirm that the deal is dead. But they do not now expect Ellis' controversial reign - which stretches back to the 1960s with only a brief hiatus a quarter of a century ago, during which Villa won the European Cup - to end in the near future.

Ellis told shareholders at Villa's annual meeting in October that he hoped to be in a position to let shareholders know about the viability of take-over proposals "within a month". Despite the Cromers' interest becoming public, no comment has been forthcoming.

The affair has been played out in contrast with the quickfireinvestment in Portsmouth by a Russian multi-millionaire. However, Villa fans frustrated by the collapse of the Irish bid and Ellis' alleged lack of ambition, may come to view events differently. Neither brother has a strong interest in football.

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