Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday September 8 2006
I was beginning to think that the only people likely to get an interview with Randy Lerner these days was the IRS, but Midlands Today's curvaceous Colleen, dressed herself up like a birthday cake for the mob and got the thing done; even if it took a menacing amount of décolletage to hypnotise the poor bloke into submission and lure him towards the camera, like David Attenborough enticing a kakapo out of the undergrowth.
Very shy apparently - which is not what you expect from a billionaire. But maybe he had those breasts held to his head, and it was a case of, 'do the interview, or I get the tits out' - you never know. Some of those Colleens can be quite forceful, I seem to remember. And shyness seems to embolden
Of course they could have sent Nick Owen but I hear he looks shite in a dress and knows even less about football, so it was up to our gal to go get. This left her strutting around like 'Scoop' Johnson all week, after her patient stalking led her to an eyrie in The Cleveland Browns Stadium, where she cornered her prey and under the threat of her ample bosom, provoked him into uttering a few well-rehearsed quotes. But at least we heard Villa's new custodian speak. 'I thought I could make a difference', he said, in typically deep, chesty, Yank-speak. He's still got his hair, so he mustn't take too strongly after his father. But I suspect he hasn't fallen too far from the tree. Well, I hope not, because his old man was pretty special -more on that later.
It was not a great interview and possibly it was a sneak-up job, as he stood with his back to the camera, as he tried to watch the Browns' game, in the shade of the overhang of her you-know-whats. But it was enough and what with his deep rich American tones and his obvious shyness, it at least gave us all a few clues about the man, which is not exactly unimportant when fans are about to financially and emotionally hand over 'their' club, to a complete stranger and a foreigner to boot. But it hardly matters that information is so scant because what I don't know, I guess at, or just leave to my rich fantasy life..
Randy was born in 1962, which would make him fourteen in 76' but somehow I can't imagine, even in his rebellious youth, that he was not a punk-rocker with a Mohawk (the correct description I'm told). I would have thought that if he was going to get to Cambridge he would have to have been a fairly dedicated student and I doubt there was much license for anarchy in the well ordered Lerner household. I am absolutely fascinated by Jewish family life and what with Portnoy's Complaint, Woody Allen, Arthur Miller, Jackie Mason - and even the Marx brothers, I have plenty of information. Based on that, no wonder he's shy. So my guess is that he's a Harpo Marx type, who can't say a lot if he's left the orchestra at home and that he spends half the day answering the phone to his mother, who wants to know if he's been to the toilet or has remembered to put a sweater on or off -depending on the weather. He obviously likes Gershwin (a fellow Russian Jew) and has had at least one session of therapy in his life. He might even play a musical instrument and have a collection of baseball cards. But did a maiden aunt ever overdose on mah-jong tiles?
But lets stop there and go back a couple of generations and see how it all began, where we can extrapolate at our leisure.
Randy's grandparents were Russian Jews who met in New York, having seen the opportunities in the new Soviet Union as a bit limited. They married and opened a 'candy' store in Brooklyn before moving to Queens, where they opened another and lived in the rooms at the back. It was here that Randy's dad Alfred was born and he passed the entrance exam and was educated at Brooklyn Technical School (not in Great Barr). Randy's dad went on to study humanities at Columbia university, which indicates a strong sense within the family that education was something in itself and was not necessary vocational. Randy carried on the tradition, when he read history at Cambridge - history is amongst the humanities.
With homes and businesses in Queens and Brooklyn, it was a perfect location for the establishment of a family love of sport, with The Shea Stadium (The mets), Ebbets Field (Dodgers/Chiefs) and Flushing Meadows Park(Tennis) all relatively local.
The story of Randy's father reads like an American fairytale.
After trying various jobs from driving-school instructor to construction, Randy's father went into the army, where he rose to the rank of first lieutenant. He left in 1958 at the age of twenty-five and took a job selling furniture for $75 a week and he worked for various furniture suppliers and
was still doing so, when Randy was born in 1962. It was during Randy's childhood that his father began to run his own business and to diversify into property and property finance. It is clear from this that Randy was actually born into a comfortable middle-class home and would have almost certainly have been raised in a family which never considered itself to be rich. But by the time Randy was being educated in England the family fortune had been established and his father was CEO of the largest credit-card company in the USA.
Randy's parents Al and Norma have made some notable charitable contributions to Columbia University ($25m) and to Cleveland Clinic (substantial) and other hospitals. Randy carries on the tradition, by building the new wing at Doug's bank ($25m).
When he accepted The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans award, Alfred Lerner said: 'find something you care about. You won't find success unless you care about what you're in'. Hopefully, Randy shares the same set of values and above all, that he carries on caring about the Villa for a long time to come.
The big question, is can he make 50 000 others care?
Date:Friday September 8 2006
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