Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and Fortress Investment co-founder Wes Edens have acquired a 55 per cent stake in Aston Villa, taking control of the one of the oldest clubs in English professional football which has been in the midst of a financial crisis.
The Birmingham-based team — which plays in the Championship, the second tier of English football — said that NSWE, a group co-owned by Mr Sawiris and Mr Edens, “will immediately inject significant investment capital into the club”.
A person close to the deal said NSWE would take a 55 per cent stake in the club for £30m, in effect taking over as the club’s owner from Tony Xia, a Chinese businessman who acquired Aston Villa two years ago.
Details of the transaction were first reported by Bloomberg. Several people close to the process said Mr Xia had sought new investors in recent weeks because difficulties escaping capital constraints in his home country that had made it difficult to transfer money to the UK and help finance Aston Villa.
Last month, Aston Villa resolved issues with the UK tax authorities over a missed tax payment that were caused by the cash crunch. Disagreements over how to deal with the club’s tax obligations led Mr Xia to suspend the club’s chief executive Keith Wyness, who has since left the club.
Aston Villa narrowly missed out on promotion to the English Premier League last season, where it would have been in line to receive around £100m in broadcasting revenues. Mr Sawiris is chief executive of OCI, a Netherlands-listed global nitrogen fertiliser and industrial chemicals producer, as well as an investor in groups such as sportswear group Adidas and cement maker LafargeHolcim. Mr Edens is co-founder and co-chief executive of Fortress Investment Group, the New-York based private equity group with over $40bn of assets under management.
He is also co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA basketball team. “As life-long football fans, we are excited and privileged to have become part of this great club,”
Mr Sawiris and Mr Edens said in a joint statement. “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 Xia will retain a 45 per cent shareholding in Aston Villa, take the title of co-chairman and remain on the club’s board. “I am extremely pleased to have formed a strategic partnership with Nassef and Wes,” he said. “We have a common goal of delivering future success for Aston Villa and I look forward to working together to achieve this aim.”