The American entrepreneur, who bought the club from long-time owner Doug Ellis in 2006, said it is time for the club to look for “fresh, invigorated leadership.
Lerner said in a statement: ” 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 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.” Lerner had bold ambitions when he secured the club from Ellis, stating his intention to lift Villa back to the top of the European game.
He said in August 2006: “It is my belief and the basis of my bid that Aston Villa can compete at the highest level within the Premiership and in Europe. VIlla made two trips to Wembley in 2010, reaching the League Cup final and the FA Cup semi-final, but the departure of manager Martin O’Neill shortly before the start of the 2010-11 season signalled the beginning of a decline. Lerner’s successive appointments of Gerard Houllier and ex-Birmingham boss Alex McLeish proved unpopular with the fans and current boss Paul Lambert’s tenure has also come in for increasing criticism in the course of another lacklustre campaign.
Lerner’s statement continued: ” 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, I feel further that now is the time for me to look for new ownership and thus new leadership.
“I have asked the world of Paul Lambert and (chief executive) Paul Faulkner and they have both delivered selflessly. On a personal level it is time for me, like the Shunammite, to dwell among my own and get on with other aspects of my career, following a sale.
“Above all, the debt I owe Aston Villa whether as owner, chairman, custodian or simply as a fan is to put the club first. To make good on that debt, 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.
“During my time with Villa, I have tried to strengthen and improve the club’s physical infrastructure both at Villa Park and Bodymoor Heath while also trying to carry on the McGregor tradition of being mindful of the local community we serve.
“Above all in this effort is the connection the club has made with Acorns (a local children’s hospice); the caring, kindness and warmth that players, staff, managers and supporters have shown to Mr Strudley and Acorns has wiped away all disappointments and sobered my finest memories.
“Still, I can see now that it is time, if possible, to hand these privileges and responsibilities to the next person or group to take the club forward. I am appreciative of the support I have received, even in these last years of comparative struggle when criticism was due, and will look on with others – with fingers crossed, for stronger future performance appropriate to our size and heritage.
“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, 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 – the vast majority having preceded my tenure.
“Finally, in light of the above, I have engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale of Aston Villa.