SBD/March 22, 2013/Franchises

Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan Discusses First Year With Organization

Khan (r) said bringing a new scoreboard to Jacksonville is vital to the Jaguars
Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, in a Q&A with FORBES' Brian Solomon, discussed the “lessons he learned in his rookie season, from coaching hires to cutting edge statistics to the business of selling tickets in Jacksonville.” The following is an excerpt of the Q&A:

Q: We’re in the offseason of your first year. How are you feeling about the Jaguars right now?
Khan: It was quite a liberating experience what happened last year. … If you are honest with yourself and the team and the fans, there’s only one thing to do when it’s 2-14. When it’s 8-8 you can be conflicted as to how much baby and how much bathwater there is, but here there was no baby -- it was just water.

Q: It sounds like the business side came naturally, but on the football side you put too much trust in the people who were already there.
Khan: If you have [the] best of everything, you wouldn’t need sales people. But (on the business side) we’re not selling victories. We’re not selling whether we have Tebow or don’t have Tebow. We’re selling a great experience and hopefully a victory. But on the football side it’s like being a doctor. The first thing is do no harm.

Q: Being much more involved this year, were you looking for different things in your new GM?
Khan: Yes, absolutely. I put a lot of time into it. On the football side getting the general manager was the most important thing. I talked to just about everybody, from wise old men of the NFL to some of the people who were still working who weren’t conflicted to a number of the owners who I respect. Getting their insight and permission to talk to their GMs to see who they would encourage me to talk to. … We want to have two people reporting to me: (team president) Mark Lamping from the business side and the GM from the football side. The coach is reporting to the GM, but -- practically -- working with him. They have to be on the same page and have the right personality, and frankly, they even have to be physically located next to each other.

Q: Was that not true with the previous combination?
Khan: No. They were on almost opposite ends of the stadium. That’s how the culture was. They also had a lot of closed doors. To me, you have to have glass doors to see who’s there, people walking in and out -- have visual command. We went through this in industry. More transparency where you could stand up, see where people were, have a cup of coffee, exchange ideas.

Q: Moving over to the business side, you obviously think it had a much better year than the football side.
Khan: There were three games that we took tarps off. A year ago we were 29th in ticket sales. We finished 20th in ticket sales. The London experience is turning out to be everything and more than I thought. The game is sold out, we got marketing rights in London, which is the first time that’s happened. Just as we speak, we’re hiring a dedicated sales and marketing representative for the Jaguars in London. The ticket revenue for a London team is about 44% higher, so playing that game is better. … Sponsorship-wise we’ve done well. … We expect to have record season ticket sales. … We’re moving forward now with getting the state to upgrade the stadium with a big scoreboard, the biggest in the business.

Q: What worked best in terms of reaching out to the fans?
Khan: The feedback we’ve gotten from fans is from changing over the sales organization. We added more people where every season ticket holder has a contact to call. We did a lot of cold-calling on businesses in Jacksonville and the greater Jacksonville area -- which, you may find amazing, had never been done before.

Q: You’re working on bringing in the new scoreboard. How important is updating the stadium itself?
Khan: I think it’s vital. It’s a publicly-owned stadium and there are a lot of events other than us. The stadium, the scoreboard is not the cutting edge state of the art and you need that. The city needs that to attract a BCS game, the Florida-Georgia game and a lot of other sports. … The high revenue teams are the ones that overall have success. … For us strategically, and for the future viability of the franchise, we have to get our revenue up, whether it’s from London, from raising ticket prices, better food -- you got to give people a reason to spend money and they think it’s a good value (FORBES.com, 3/20).
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