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Handling the sale of professional sports teams may not be standard fare for Arnold & Porter, but last week the firm helped Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner take over English soccer club Aston Villa. Despite negotiations with current owner Doug Ellis breaking down in late July, Lerner was able to salvage the deal. The final sale is subject to approval of Birmingham, U.K.-based Aston Villa’s shareholders, and because the deal was recommended by the team’s board, it is expected to be approved. The deal, which will cost Lerner more than $118 million, was handled by Arnold & Porter’s London office, but D.C. partner Joseph Howe III stepped in to set up the international tax structure for the buyout. The firm, which had represented Lerner’s late father, Al Lerner, in his ownership of MBNA Corp., began working with the Lerner family several months ago to help manage the family’s assets. England-based Travers Smith represented Reform Acquisitions, Randy Lerner’s acquisition vehicle for the deal. Lerner is the second National Football League owner to buy a U.K. soccer team. Last year, Allen & Overy’s London office lawyered Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer’s contentious buyout of the celebrated Manchester United.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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