NFL Jaguars Owner Khan Buys EPL Fulham For $300M, Promises To Continue Legacy
Former EPL Fulham Owner Mohamed Al Fayed on Friday "brought the curtain down on his 16-year reign" at the club when he sold it to U.S. car-parts billionaire and NFL Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Al Fayed has pumped millions into the west London club, lending it £195M "over the period of his ownership." Fulham has been sold debt-free to Khan, who was born in Pakistan and went to the U.S. at the age of 16 to study engineering at the University of Illinois. Al Fayed: "My time of serving as the custodian of Fulham Football Club would one day come to an end, and I feel that time has now arrived. The time is right because I have found a very good man in Shahid Khan to accept the responsibility and privilege that I have enjoyed at Fulham since 1997" (FT, 7/13). FORBES' Mike Ozanian reported Khan purchased the club for $300M, "almost 2.5 times" Fulham's '11-12 revenue (FORBES, 7/13).
SUSTAINING THE LEGACY: In London, Scott Rutherford reported Khan insisted he would "build on the work Al Fayed has done over the past 16 years." Khan said, "The man rescued Fulham and had a great vision which he’s shared with me. I think it’s very, very important to all the Fulham fans. I think what has happened has been absolutely incredible, something I’m going to remember forever. We have to respect history. I am going to listen to the fans and decide but we have to make sure it’s sustainable. There’s a great leadership here and I have a lot to learn. But I’ll give the team all the support it needs to be successful on the pitch." Such is Al Fayed’s popularity, "more than 1,000 Fulham fans have already signed a petition to rename the Riverside Stand the Mohamed Al Fayed Stand" (LONDON TIMES, 7/13).
BREAKING THE MOLD: REUTERS' Simon Evans reported Khan is "likely to break the mould and be one of the most open and public of billionaires to take control of one of England's top flight clubs." Other int'l owners such as Chelsea's Roman Abramovich and ManU's Malcolm Glazer rarely talk to the media or engage with fans "but Khan has shown that he enjoys attention." When Khan bought the Jaguars in '11, he "brought his yacht into port in the northern Florida city and set about a series of community meetings with local politicians and fans." Jaguars fan blog "Big Cat Country" Editor Alfie Crow said, "He is kind of a rock star with the fans. He comes out to practice, interacts with the fans and talks to them. He is very much out there and engaged. He has really energized people" (REUTERS, 7/13). In London, Martin Thorpe reported everyone connected with Fulham, "from administrators through to the fans, believe that the man with the moustache is just the chap to take over Fulham and lift them to the mythical 'next stage' all mid-table Premier League clubs dream of -- Champions League football -- while safeguarding the traditions of what the fans like to call 'this family club' down by the Thames." Al Fayed has "won such a place in the hearts of the fans during his long reign that they trust him implicitly to choose the right successor to build sympathetically on his legacy." When "asked if he had any plans for long-term redevelopment of Craven Cottage as a prime site for housing," Khan spoke about "respecting history" and "this special place." Khan: "My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future." As for fears he may "turn this friendly club into a soulless, money-making monster," Khan said, "We will manage the club's financial and operational affairs with prudence and care" (INDEPENDENT, 7/14).
KHAN'S VALUE: Also in London, Dave Kidd wrote while Al Fayed is worth £1.3B ($2B), Khan has £1.7B ($2.6B) to his name. Forbes says Khan is the 491st richest person on the planet. An "elderly billionaire gives way to a younger, wealthier billionaire and Fulham's prospects rise." Should Fulham’s new owner be "willing to sink a significant percentage of his wealth into buying players," the west London club will soon improve on last season’s 12th-place finish (DAILY MIRROR, 7/14).
MAN IN THE MIRROR: The AP reported the "pressing issue locally Saturday" was about Michael Jackson. A statue of Jackson sits outside Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium, commissioned after the pop singer's death in '09 by Al Fayed in one of "the most contentious decisions of his 18-year ownership." Khan said, "I've been an owner less than a day. We have to preserve and respect history, but we have to move forward. I'll reflect on it and listen to the fans, then decide." Al Fayed: "Michael Jackson will stay. It's part of the deal" (AP, 7/13).
U.S. TAKEOVER: In London, David Conn wrote in the GUARDIAN's Talking Sport blog Khan has common ground with the other U.S. owners of six Premier League clubs -- almost a third of England's top league. Football, "loved around the world, is here, in the land where it began 150 years ago, selling some of its most 'storied' clubs to billionaires" from the U.S., just about the "only country which has never been entranced by the game." As they have arrived, to own ManU, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Sunderland and now Fulham, "these shrewd and calculating billionaires have rarely convincingly explained what is driving this gradual U.S. takeover" of our football. This is "becoming a critical group now, six clubs of 20, takeovers never planned, rarely explained." The long-term implications of overseas, predominantly U.S., "mostly financially acquisitive ownership have not been considered; the clubs have just been sold, one by one." No other European country is "selling its football clubs like this." Germany, which brought two clubs to the Champions League final and played at Wembley to honor the birth of the game in England 150 years ago, "scoffs and says it would never countenance it" (GUARDIAN, 7/12). LA AFICION reported Al Fayed said that "he is retiring to spend his time playing football with his grandchildren" (LA AFICION, 7/12).