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Shahid Khan – File photo by AP
Shahid Khan – File photo by AP

LAHORE, Sept 21: Born into a middle class family of Lahore in 1950, today Shahid Khan, now a US national, stands among Forbes’ 2012 list of America’s billionaires. Now he lives in Southwest Florida’s posh beach town of Naples.

Mr Khan owns auto parts supplier Flex-N-Gate and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He ranks 179th on the 2012 Forbes 400 with an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.

Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates remains the richest man in the US by far, as the tech and philanthropy giant took the top spot on the Forbes 400 list for the 19th year running, with a net worth of $66 billion.

Though not much information is available about Mr Khan’s life and education in Lahore, according to Forbes magazine his family was in construction business in Lahore when he moved to the United States at the age of 16 to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

About his early days in the US, the magazine quoted Mr khan as saying that he spent his first night in a $2 per night room at the Champaign YMCA. His first job in the US was washing dishes for $1.20 an hour. He graduated from the UIUC School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering with a BSc in 1971.

He proved to be a successful entrepreneur when after his university education, Mr Khan invented a new truck bumper design that shaved weight off for fuel efficiency considerations. He never looked back and soon built his company with his $16,000 saving and a bank loan. Soon he developed the company into a $3.4 billion manufacturing juggernaut that supplied the biggest automakers in the world.

Nine months ago, he bought the Jaguars, fulfilling a longtime dream to own an NFL franchise.

Now, Mr Khan is focusing on giving back to his adopted country. He donated $10 million in 2011 to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Back in Lahore, a very few people are aware of Mr Khan’s place on the Forbes list of the 400 billionaires.

“I only know that he is a Pakistani and he has purchased a football team in the US,” said Fawad Asghar, a sports journalist.

According to Muhammad Imran, a business graduate, Mr Khan is a perfect example of brain drain for Pakistanis, and a proof of American dream. He said Mr Khan was giving back to the Americans since the US gave him a lot.

“Pakistan offers opportunities to a few; scores of intelligent people with potential entrepreneur skills on Lahore streets can make to the Forbes list if they are given a chance,” he said.

“Well done, Shahid Khan,” said Shahid Bhatti, also an auto parts dealer on Guru Mangat Road.

He said though he too wanted to manufacture fuel efficient bumpers, the big companies and his financial constraints would never let him fulfill his dream.

“That’s why I am just called Sheeda. I need a chance to be Shahid Khan,” he said.