To: All Shareholders in Aston Villa Football Club plc
From: Aston Villa Shareholders Association and Villa Fans Combined
Aston Villa Shareholders Association and Villa Fans Combined are writing to you, in your capacity as a shareholder in Aston Villa Football Club plc, to outline why a change of control and ownership is long overdue and in the best interests of the Club.
We are asking all shareholders to support a resolution at the forthcoming AGM urging the Chairman to actively seek a sale of his shareholding to such parties who are best placed to bring investment, stability and skilled personnel to the Club.
We believe that Mr Ellis is not in a position to take the Club forward in order to re-establish itself amongst the top clubs of Europe and must be made to proactively find a buyer for his shares and sell up, once a suitable custodian is found.
Whether you are a shareholder who is a supporter of the football team or not, radical root and branch change is in your best interests and perhaps more importantly, in the best interests of the short and long-term development of the Club.
No one questions Mr Ellis's devotion to the Club. Nevertheless, the facts are that in the 20 years under his stewardship, the Club has woefully under performed and fallen far behind the leading football clubs of England and Europe. Mr Ellis took control shortly after the European Cup victory in 1982; five years later the Club was relegated. Numerous opportunities to build on short-term success have been consistently squandered. A succession of managers have either resigned under a cloud of frustration or been dismissed, unable to work under the control or constraints imposed by the Chairman. Top players have left, citing their frustration at the lack of ambition.
Put simply, Mr Ellis has not performed and is not in a position to redress this decline. In no other business context would the Chief Executive (for that is the role that Mr Ellis has performed until only very recently) of a listed company be allowed to maintain control of a business with such a dismal track record. We understand that Mr Ellis still exercises significant control and influence over the Club in spite of the appointment of a Chief Executive earlier this year.
Moreover, Mr Ellis has done extremely well from his acquisition of the Club. We are unable to find any evidence that Mr Ellis has put a penny in to the Club. But he has taken an enormous amount out in salary, dividends and share sales, estimated at £8million. All this whilst we have seen our investment dwindle from £11 per share at flotation to under £3.00 (and at one stage, well below that price). At the current price of 279.5p that equals a 74.6% loss.
On the pitch last season, the team performed way above expectation. The new manager, David O'Leary, has done a wonderful job. Overall, the quality of football has improved dramatically and there is cause for optimism for the future. As fans first and foremost, we are naturally delighted by last season's performance. But then, we have seen this many times before. The story of Mr Ellis' tenure at the Club is one of managerial upheaval, perpetual transition and moderate, sporadic success.
Action is long overdue. The high profile enjoyed by English football since the mid-1990s, the huge amounts of money that clubs have generated coupled with the fact that Aston Villa had no real local Premier League rival for well over a decade meant that the Club should have established itself firmly within domestic football. That chance was missed and the Club falls further behind the elite every season.
Mr Ellis may well claim that he has not had a 'serious' offer for his shareholding. We are saying that Mr Ellis at his age and with failing health, should put his shareholding up for sale, look for suitable custodians and expect to receive a realistic price. We are aware that the Club has significant fixed assets that would no doubt enhance the price of the Club's shares. If Mr Ellis truly loved Aston Villa Football Club, he would sell his shareholding at a fair value thus leaving a cash legacy for the Club.
We are also worried that there is no succession plan and no understanding of what will happen to Mr Ellis's significant shareholding on his death.
What can be done? Mr Ellis holds a significant shareholding in the Club. But shareholders and fans can play a part in having a 'Voice' in the Club. Thousands of individuals hold only a few shares. As a collection of disparate, individual shareholders, we hold very little power. Together, we have a 'Voice'. We encourage all shareholders who care about the future of the Club to join the Aston Villa Shareholders Association (AVSA) to unify our stakes and exercise a far more pivotal role in both the running of the Club and the way in which our shares are presided over after their disastrous performance since floatation.
By uniting under a common organisation, shareholders will have the most effective chance of persuading Mr Ellis to look for a suitable custodian for the Club. If we do not, then what will stop Mr Ellis from continuing to spurn approaches from investors that do not suit 'his needs' and hold back the development of Aston Villa?
Finally, AVSA is also proposing a resolution for the fans to decide on an appropriate name for the (formerly known) "Witton Lane Stand". That stand was re-named the "Doug Ellis Stand" when it was rebuilt in the mid 1990's without any consultation with the fans or shareholders. It should therefore be properly re-named following a vote of fans and shareholders.
For Further Information see www.sharevilla.co.uk , www.villafc.com or write for details of membership of the Shareholders Association to 2 Oversley Close, Redditch, B97 6GW.