AVFC: Wyness vs Xia

In a statement on their official website, AVFC formally confirmed that they have parted ways with CEO Keith Wyness and are willing to defend any legal action that he may bring against the company. Wyness’ departure came after it was confirmed that he was suspended by the club last week.

Aston Villa FC

While the statement on the official website was short and to the point, documents filed with Companies House are much more revealing.

On June 7 Aston Villa Football Club Ltd (03375789) filed a document confirming a variation of the service contract of Keith Wyness. The resolution to vary his contract was circulated to shareholders on May 15, and was signed off by Tony Xia on May 25, the day before the Playoff final.

This would seem to confirm the rumours of a split between Wyness and Xia in the weeks prior to their playoff final defeat and would explain some of the issues surrounding the departure of Wyness now.

From the outside, it seems evident that Wyness is feeding people in the UK media as to why the split is so acrimonious.

Articles on the Mirror website and the Telegraph website both paint Wyness as the injured party – and to be fair, they have a point.

As a director, Wyness would have had a fiduciary duty to take insolvency advice even if Xia didn’t like him doing so. Not doing so could have made Wyness personally liable for any fallout.

However, if the rumours are true of Wyness also looking to outside financial investment to help steady the AVFC ship then there is no way he could have stayed at the club.

Although local newspapers have confirmed that Xia is looking for investment, from my experience it is likely he will only accept investment from fellow Chinese businessmen.

It’s a generalisation of Chinese culture, but again from experience there is a natural antipathy from Chinese businessmen to accept outside investment from non-Chinese, particularly when things are going awry. This is due to a lack of trust of “outsiders” and a feeling that to maintain face one must keep problems “internal”.

For Xia, the very idea Wyness touted around looking for someone to put money into the club would have been seen as nothing less than treachery.

It will be interesting now to see who is brought in as the replacement of Wyness. There are going to be some unpopular decisions that are going to have to be made – yet whoever comes in will also have to be able to secure the backing of Xia.

I would not be surprised if the next CEO of AVFC is another Chinese as the wagons circle tightly around their embattled owner.

There are other problems ahead too.

While I’ve seen figures of £6million banded about as the potential cost of Wyness taking AVFC to court, there is a much higher price to be paid should a constructive dismissal case make it that far.

A court case would bring all of the behind-the-scenes dirty linen into the public domain, allowing everyone to dissect the intimate secrets of AVFC’s financial position without fear of censure.

This is absolutely something AVFC cannot afford – yet Xia cannot afford to lose any face in the matter either. Any resolution will have to be a fine balancing act – and every piece in the news backing Wyness makes it just a little harder to do.