SBD/December 19, 2011/Franchises

New Owner Khan Hopes Jaguars Become "Flag-Bearer" For NFL's International Efforts

Jaguars playing internationally could help expand team's brand
New Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan wants the team “to be a flag-bearer for the NFL's international initiatives,” according to Tania Ganguli of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Khan said, "I think it's in the Jacksonville Jaguars' interest to really get our hats in the ring and really actively pursue to play a game overseas." Khan noted “the international appeal” that EPL soccer teams have as they “have fans throughout the Middle East and Asia.” He sees the NFL “heading in a similar direction and wants to be part of it.” Khan: "I'm very open. I think it would serve Jacksonville well to play a game or two overseas, to get the name Jacksonville out" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 12/17). Khan said, "The NFL is going to be developing an international fan base. Why shouldn't it be the Jaguars? In all honesty, internationally, they don't know the difference between the Jaguars and the Steelers.'' Khan said that the reason outgoing Owner Wayne Weaver “had been reluctant to play in London was because of ‘moveophobia,’ the fear that fans would take it as a sign the franchise was in jeopardy of relocating.” But Khan is “so confident things will work in Jacksonville that he has no concerns about playing overseas” (AP, 12/16). U.K.-based blogger Damien Jarrett posted on his Twitter feed, "A @ukpatriots member spoke to Jonathan Kraft on potential game at Wembley with Jags; said he 'thinks it will happen'" (TWITTER.com, 12/19).

THE OUT CLAUSE: NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora cited a source as saying that part of Weaver's sale of the Jaguars to Khan “included a clause in which Khan must pay $25 million to the charity of Weaver's choice should he move the team within five years of the purchase date” (NFL.com, 12/18). Jim Woodcock, Khan’s spokesperson, said, “Shad Khan is 100 percent invested in Jacksonville and the legacy built by Wayne and Delores Weaver. So when Mr. Weaver requested this feature (the $25 million clause), Shad was very amenable to any language in the purchase agreement to that effect.” Woodcock also suggested that Khan’s first visit to Jacksonville as the owner last week “reinforced his positive feelings about the city” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 12/19). In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote the combination of the NFL's TV contract renewal with Fox, CBS and NBC and the new CBA is “favorable for the small-market teams" and "almost guarantees Khan will be keeping the Jaguars in Jacksonville.” Even if the Jaguars “don’t sell out, the money flowing in from the new TV contracts, combined with a salary cap, will keep the team in the black.” But while the Jaguars “might not need sellouts to be viable, that doesn’t mean Khan isn’t going to put a lot of emphasis on filling the stadium.” He was “noncommittal on whether the Jaguars will continue to show games on TV when all the non-premium tickets aren’t sold.” Stellino noted owners “can do that by writing a check to the league for 34 percent of the value of the unsold non-premium tickets” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 12/18).

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: The FLORIDA TIMES-UNION’s Ganguli noted when news broke two weeks ago that Weaver was selling the Jaguars to Khan for $760M, it “seemed shocking and sudden.” While everyone “focused on blackouts, ticket sales and the head coach’s job security, Weaver and Khan put together a deal that began a new era.” After all the “secrecy of the past 15 months, Khan was suddenly a more public figure than he had ever been before.” Khan: “I’ve been amazed, quite frankly. I knew the NFL was big. I never thought somebody’d be photographing me coming out of the men’s room.” Jaguars Senior VP/Stadium Operations & CFO Bill Prescott said, “I think for the public it appeared to be very quick, but this is September of 2010 that the process started. You’re talking something that really was over the course of 14, 15 months.” Khan first contacted the NFL office “about his interest in ownership in 2006.” NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman “was particularly helpful.” Ganguli noted the ‘10 season opener “was the first time Prescott met Khan.” From then until the fall of ‘11, Prescott, Weaver and team General Counsel & Senior VP/Football Operations Paul Vance “were the only people in the Jaguars organization who knew Khan was negotiating a deal to buy the team.” Khan “only told a handful of people himself,” and he “kept it from all the other owners with whom he’d grown close as he learned about the business.” The lockout “delayed the deal, and talks broke off in March when the work stoppage began.” But Khan and his close advisers during that time “studied the organization” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 12/18).
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