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Shahid Khan. -File photo
Shahid Khan. -File photo

MIAMI: New Fulham chief Pakistan-born Shahid Khan, the Premier League's latest foreign owner, 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 international owners such as Russian Roman Abramovich (Chelsea) and American Malcolm Glazer (Manchester United) rarely talk to the media or engage with fans but Khan has shown that he enjoys attention.

When Khan bought the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, he brought his yacht into port in the northern Florida city and set about a series of community meetings with local politicians and fans.

“He is kind of a rock star with the fans,” Alfie Crow, editor of the Jaguars' fan blog 'Big Cat Country,' told Reuters.

“He comes out to practice, interacts with the fans and talks to them. He is very much out there and engaged. He has really energised people.”

Any trepidation Jaguars fans initially had about the team's new owner quickly dissipated as he won them over with his charm, not to mention a thick handlebar mustache and flowing hair that is a marked change from the staid image of the traditional NFL owner.

Khan, after all, is far from a typical owner of an American sports franchise.

Born in Lahore, where he not surprisingly fell in love with cricket, Khan moved to the United States as a 16-year-old, sleeping in a YMCA and washing dishes on his way to earning an engineering degree at the University of Illinois.

He ended up buying the first company to give him a job, transforming Flex-N-Gate into a lucrative car parts business. In 2010 he was making his first move into the sports world with an attempt to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

The man who foiled that attempt was Stan Kroenke, who took majority ownership of the Rams. At Fulham, Khan will be in close proximity to Kroenke, the majority shareholder in London club Arsenal.

While Khan missed out on the Rams he did win friends in the NFL's elite ownership group and that helped him when he finally got into the league with the Jaguars.

“I thought, I have developed a love and affection as a fan for the sport and I'd like to be part of it,” he told Reuters in an interview last year.

As well as engaging with the local fan base, Khan has emphasised the opportunities to “put Jacksonville on the map” by taking the Jaguars to London for an annual game over the next four seasons.

It was typical of Khan's approach though that he responded to speculation that his move for Fulham might have a negative impact on the Jaguars by emailing the team's season ticket holders to reassure them.

“Fulham F.C. will operate as a fully stand-alone business from the Jaguars. Fulham and the Jaguars each have a great responsibility to their players, fans, partners and communities, and both deserve nothing less than a 100 percent commitment from ownership,” he wrote.

“In short, our pledge to you - a Jaguars franchise that is proud, bold and committed - remains unchanged.

Fulham season ticket holders can expect the same sort of hands-on attention, including fan forums, emails, media appearances, the kind of things that most foreign Premier League owners shy away from.

“I want to be clear, I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham, but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans,” said Khan.

“My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future that fans of present and future generations can be proud of.”

Mohamed Al Fayed, the man Khan is taking over from, was full of praise for the new owner.

“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,” Al Fayed said.

“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.

“Fulham will be in very good hands with Shahid, whose success in business and passion for sport is very evident.

“I ask everyone who loves Fulham and our Craven Cottage home to welcome Shahid as he begins his journey as the next guardian of Fulham Football Club.”

The Premier League, with its unrestricted free-market approach to wages and transfers, is a very different world to the closed, salary-capped business model of the NFL, and it will be fascinating to see how Khan approaches Fulham.

However it turns out, Fulham fans are certainly going to know they have a new owner.

Comments (21) Closed

Bong Jul 13, 2013 09:09am

Guys what say....he is a British or a Pakistani ?

Abbastoronto Jul 13, 2013 09:24am

Khan is the richest south Asian in the US.

Traditionally, Pakistanis do well in the US, while the Indians shine in Canada. Psychologically and politically India is to Pakistan what Canada is to USA. Canada has peace, America has freedom. Similarly, India has peace, Pak has freedom.

Akbar Jul 13, 2013 03:24pm

The guy needs $20 to have a hair cut...

Uza Syed Jul 13, 2013 03:57pm

May this Shahid Khan succeed and prosper in all his wonderful endeavours and may there be many more of our girls & boys do as well as this Pakistani Shahid Khan. News such as this one does a great thing to enhance the name Pakistan and the identity Pakistani. My prayers and my best wishes for this man who does us proud.

obaid Jul 13, 2013 08:57pm

What a waste of money for nothing but losing teams. He should help PCT or PHT for good cause,,,,

imran Jul 14, 2013 02:32am

Finally something good as it relates to a pakistani. Lets hope it lasts.

Aiza Jul 14, 2013 07:17am

Delightful news!

S. A. M. Jul 14, 2013 09:05am

it pays to work hard and with intelligence

Mike Jul 14, 2013 09:11am

He NEVER calls himself pakistani -- he always calls himself American.

Moreover, he has never invested in anything in pakistan -- sports or industry or philanthropy!

so why does pakistani media desperately keep calling him pakistani?!?

Ali Jul 14, 2013 02:35pm

Please, sir, if you read this: please invest in some Pakistani clubs or in sports in Pakistan also.

Regards Scandinavian-Pakistani

Ali Jul 14, 2013 03:04pm

Both clubs will be operated like Lahori Charga house.

Umar Khan Jul 14, 2013 03:21pm

kheili khobi!

Omer Jul 14, 2013 04:46pm

Good Stuff for Pakistans Shahid Khan should support Pakistani football to Invest in Pakistan future to.

Omer Jul 14, 2013 04:47pm

Shahaid khan should invest in Pakistani cricket and football in is native homeland

Shah Jul 14, 2013 07:08pm

Fulham FC will improve now, they were deprived of funds Vs Chelsea and City spending power. I am happy that he is investing his money in clean place than corrupt. Good Luck.

Aiza Jul 14, 2013 07:10pm

@Mike: The guy is born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, isn't it quite obvious to say he is of Pakistani origin? Or should we be apologetic about this also?

sal Jul 15, 2013 03:11am

@Mike: He left Pakistan at a young age and wants nothing to do with Pakistan...what has Pakistan done for him besides embarrassment. Time has come for expats to say bye bye for good.

Khanage Jul 15, 2013 11:05am

Good stuff. Have fun running your own EPL club Mr Khan.

Tariq Jul 15, 2013 04:11pm

@Bong: He is an American of Pakistani heritage!

Rashid Jul 15, 2013 05:42pm

@Bong: Neither Pakistani nor British. He's American.

saleem Jul 16, 2013 12:46am

@Mike: i see nothing wrong in it