Aston Villa put up for sale
American owner Randy Lerner has confirmed that he has put Aston Villa up for sale.
Lerner bought Villa from Doug Ellis in 2006 but there has been uncertainty over his future throughout a difficult campaign which ended in a lowly 15th-place finish after Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
And Lerner has now declared that he believes it is the right moment for the club to sell and look for new owners who can push them forward.
In a statement published on the club's website, Lerner said: "I feel that now is the time for me to look for new ownership and thus new leadership.
"Several weeks back I said that following the end of the season I would clarify my future role with the club and address what had become seemingly constant rumours of a sale.
"I owe it to Villa to move on, and look for fresh, invigorated leadership, if in my heart I feel I can no longer do the job.
"I have asked the world of (manager) Paul Lambert and (chief executive) Paul Faulkner and they have both delivered selflessly.
"On a personal level it is time for me to get on with other aspects of my career, following a sale.
"On a practical level, the club will continue with its normal operations and plans for the summer.
"I've no doubt that the core staff at both Villa Park and BMH (Bodymoor Heath Training Ground), to whom I owe a massive debt of friendship and loyalty, will continue to guide and protect the club through this period of transition according to their collective sense of professional pride and long term service to Villa.
"Finally, in light of the above, I have engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale of Aston Villa."
Lerner, who formerly owned NFL franchise Cleveland Browns, paid £60m for the club in 2006 and has since invested £200m.
For three successive seasons under manager Martin O'Neill - through to May 2010 - Villa finished sixth in the Premier League table, before slipping three spots the following campaign.
However, each of the last three have witnessed tense battles to avoid relegation with finishes of 16th-15th-15th.
After eight years owning a high-profile club in the United Kingdom, Lerner admitted that his time in football has become increasingly difficult, adding: "I have come to know well that fates are fickle in the business of English football.
"And I feel that I have pushed mine well past the limit. The last several seasons have been week-in, week-out battles and having now come through this last season unfortunately limping amidst very meaningful injuries and constant sale rumours."
Back in August 2006, shortly after purchasing the Villans, Lerner said: "It is my belief that Aston Villa can compete at the highest level within the Premiership and in Europe."
The high spot was reaching the final of the League Cup in 2010 when, under O'Neill, they lost 2-1 at Wembley to Manchester United.