Tevfik Arif, a business associate of Donald Trump, has been revealed by The Independent as the front-runner to buy Aston Villa from Randy Lerner. According to the English outlet’s report, the founder of New York-based property firm Baylock Group is one of six to eight parties that have expressed interest in the club.
Lerner’s desire to sell his Birmingham-based club has been known since the near the end of the Premier League season, though his potential deals were reportedly contingent on the team’s Premier League survival. Having ensured its spot in the first division, Aston Villa is set to change hands, though the identity of the club’s suitors were previously unknown.
Thanks to The Independent, however, we not only know the leading candidate but a little of his background. From today’s report:
Arif worked for 17 years in hotel management at the Soviet Ministry of Commerce and Trade, before developing the luxurious Labada hotel in Turkey after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moving to the US, he partnered with Trump on a number of projects including the upmarket 46-storey Trump SoHo hotel and residential tower in New York.
Per the story, Arif has a link to the soccer world as an investor in Doyen Capital – a Londen-based hedge fund that holds ownership stakes in players, including Monaco’s Radamel Falcao. More notoriously:
Arif was arrested and questioned in October 2010 in a high-profile raid by Turkish police over claims that he supplied Russian businessmen and officials with Eastern European prostitutes for up to $10,000 a night … He was acquitted of all charges in April 2011.
As The Independent’s headline hints, the links to Trump, third-party ownership, and an old prostitution investigation makes his potential ownership “controversial,” but those details tell us little about how Arif himself (particularly given his acquittal). In that sense, there’s little we know today about Aston Villa’s future that we didn’t know yesterday.
What we can say for sure: There is a series of candidates; one front-runner; and that front-runner appears to be pretty rich. He also seems to have a toe in the water with the soccer world.
Beyond that, all we can really say is Aston Villa seems destined to have a new owner soon.