Villa confirm approach from Irish group over £64m takeover

The group of potential purchasers is headed by the brothers Brian and Luke Comer, owners of the Irish property company Comer Homes Group. They have assets worth £1bn, from which they are reportedly prepared to finance an attempt to restore Villa to their former pre-eminence. But reports that they have already done a deal with Ellis and the club's other major shareholder, Jack Petchey, are premature.

Villa admitted in a morning statement to the Stock Exchange that there had been contact between the club and the consortium. The group was put together by an Aston-born, Solihull-based businessman and lifelong Villa follower, 51-year-old Michael Neville, and contains two other businessmen, one a South African.

However, the club cautioned that the proposals - under which the 82-year-old Ellis and Petchey would sell their combined stake of 58 per cent at £5.60 per share - were still at a speculative stage.

Villa's statement read: "The directors of Aston Villa plc have noted the weekend press comment and confirm that they have received a preliminary approach from Mr Michael Neville on behalf of a consortium group, which could lead to an offer for the company.

"However, the board have not met with any other members of the consortium group, nor received any confirmation of the availability of sufficient funding to support any potential offer. So they can only treat the approach as speculative at this stage. Your board will continue to look at maximising shareholder value, and also ensuring that the club is sufficiently funded for the future."

Under the terms of the takeover, which would effectively see Comer become Villa's parent company, the club would be guaranteed 20 per cent of Comer's annual profits from property development. The money available could elevate Villa from middling competitors in the transfer market to being rivals to Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, if not Chelsea and their seemingly unlimited resources.

Ellis, who has previously rebuffed approaches from a consortium fronted by the former Birmingham City and Manchester City defender Ray Ranson and from groups of Russian and Venezuelan businessmen respectively, previously maintained that the only way he would leave Villa Park would be in a box.

But the Comer offer - which may include a non-executive boardroom role for him - allows Ellis both to realise a good price for the club and to be able to claim that he has safeguarded its future.

There has been an initial surge of exhilaration among supporters, many of whom have protested against what they perceive as Ellis' ultra-cautious, even parsimonious leadership of a club that lifted the European Cup barely two decades ago. One critic of the Ellis regime, Jonathan Fear of the pressure group Villa Fans Combined, complained of an "air of stagnation" at Villa Park and expected stay-away supporters to "come flocking back" if the deal went ahead.

Meanwhile, the focus turned on Villa's would-be owners yesterday. Neither Luke Comer, 47, nor his brother Brian, 45, is known to have any previous affinity with the Birmingham club, lifelong or otherwise. Both, though, are keen sportsmen. Luke trained Cachel Bay, the horse that came in last in the Derby in 2001. Brian is an enthusiastic golfer and bought a house on a course in Hertfordshire, the county where Luke also has a home.

There is no suggestion that the brothers harbour thoughts of replacing their compatriot David O'Leary as manager. O'Leary became accustomed to lavish spending at Leeds United under the chairmanship of Peter Ridsdale, but he has been forced to recruit more modestly since arriving at Villa two and a half years ago.

Comer brothers built up fortune from run-down properties

Luke and Brian Comer, the multimillionaire Irish brothers who are providing the financial muscle to the proposed takeover of Aston Villa, have amassed their considerable fortunes via their property business.

After starting out in the trade as plasterers in their native County Galway, they moved to England and founded Comer Homes 15 years ago. The company now has assets estimated at £1bn.

Neither Luke, 47, nor Brian, 45, have any known affiliation to Villa, a spokeswoman for Comer Homes said yesterday, although Luke's long-term involvement in horse racing - as an owner, trainer and stud owner - gives him a shared interest with Villa's chairman, Doug Ellis.

Luke owns several racehorses and a stud farm in Dunboyne, County Meath. The most high-profile event in his training career was the 2001 Epsom Derby, when his horse, Cashel Bay, a 300-1 shot, finished 12th.

The brothers spend much of their time in England. Brian owns a golf course, where he lives, at Forest Hills, Hertfordshire. Luke lives in the same area.

Their spokeswoman declined to comment on their personal wealth and said no statement regarding Villa is expected until later in the week. The brothers' have a proven track record in transforming old institutions, in a literal sense at least. Many of their building projects have involved buying old, run-down buildings and transforming them into luxury apartment and business complexes, mostly in London, with their flats selling for up to £1m each. A 500-home development is under way at a former naval accommodation block in Weymouth, where property prices will boom because the town will be the Olympic sailing centre in 2012.

Luke made headlines in Ireland last week when his daughter, Sandra, 24, who had been receiving treatment in South Africa for alcoholism, made contact after going missing for two months.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker