Pakistan-born NFL team owner has grand plans

Published: March 6, 2012

Khan bought control of the Jaguars late last year for a reported $760 million from Wayne Weaver. PHOTO: REUTERS

JACKSONVILLE: The Jacksonville Jaguars have long been in need of a boost and the struggling National Football League team may have finally found it from an unexpected source, Pakistan-born Shahid Khan.

Khan bought control of the Jaguars late last year for a reported $760 million from Wayne Weaver, who led the organization into the NFL in 1995, and has quickly set about making his presence felt, both at the club and the north Florida community.

Unsurprisingly for a man who started out “with a one way ticket and a few hundred bucks” but is now a multi-millionaire auto-parts businessman and member of the elite 32-man club of NFL owners, Khan isn’t lacking in confidence or ideas.

He was born in Lahore and like many of his countrymen, he grew up with the more genteel sport of cricket, but fell in love with American football after moving to the United States.

“You learn to love the sport,” Khan told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s a three dimensional kind of chess. First you come in as a spectator but I’ll never forget watching Walter Payton at the Chicago Bears and no matter how many times he was hit, the guy kept going.”

Inspired by what he saw on the field and what he had achieved in his own life, Khan decided to get involved.

“You watch those games on a Sunday and then during the week, in your own life, you have some sort of obstacle,” he said.

“I reflected back and thought you can’t give up. It provides some kind of inspiration.”

“But it was only about six years ago when I thought, I have developed a love and affection as a fan for the sport and I’d like to be part of it.”

Becoming one of the NFL’s owners was no easy task. Anyone seeking a way into the league not only needs the financial muscle but also the support of the other owners. Khan passed both tests.

Exclusive club

“It is exclusive because you have to be accepted, you have to be able to find the opportunity and you have to be able to afford the opportunity,” he said.

“I went to the league six years ago and said ‘I have an interest, how does one get introduced?’ and they said here are some names of owners if you want to go and talk to them.”

Those talks led him to an eventually unfruitful attempt to take control of the St. Louis Rams but he eventually got his opportunity in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars, who have struggled at times to fill their stadium and have just two divisional championships to their name, are viewed by many as one of the weaker franchises in the league and have frequently been mentioned as candidates for relocation.

There were initial fears the sale to Khan might be the prelude to a move away from the city but the new owner moved quickly to reassure everyone of his commitment to the city.

“We had a rally to meet the (new) coach on a Tuesday night at 5.30pm, almost 7,000 people turned up. They are hardcore and they are nuts,” he said.

“This isn’t South Florida or Tampa, this is North Florida-South Georgia which is football crazy. It’s the only game in town, there are no other sports.”

Khan has been embraced by the local community and become a celebrity in his own right.

“He’s done a good job of being public and visible and I think people have responded well to that,” said Tania Ganguili, Jaguars reporter for the Florida Times Union.

Khan has grand ambitions for his team. He not only wants them to excel on the field, he also wants them to become a global brand, that will promote Jacksonville.

“We have to work the territory,” he said.

“There hasn’t been much success on the field. It is the most important thing, especially given this is a young franchise and we don’t have third and fourth generation fans here.”

“I think we can add value by being international. I think it needs a home team that is committed there for a few years, who can go engage the fans and the community. It’s also a great way to sell the city globally.”

 

Reader Comments (29)

  • ZYZE
    Mar 6, 2012 - 12:08PM

    wow…. Amazing Story,… Hope you keep going, and also make Pakistan proud..!!

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  • Truth Teller
    Mar 6, 2012 - 12:18PM

    Finally somebody showing a positive image of Pakistan! Otherwise West used to think that except exploding ourselves, we do nothing else.

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  • Torrent
    Mar 6, 2012 - 12:37PM

    It would be nice to see if Shahid Khan could introduce american football in Pakistan. Football is pretty exciting, the main reason we don’t follow american sports is because of the opposite time zones – hardly anyone wakes up at 6 in the morning to watch these games.

    A friend of mine couldn’t watch the Pak vs Ind cricket final last year when he was in US. Although he didn’t regret that after the match ended.

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  • Mar 6, 2012 - 12:40PM

    I wish Mr. Khan and the team best of luck!

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  • American Pakistani
    Mar 6, 2012 - 12:56PM

    Go Khan!

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  • CB Guy
    Mar 6, 2012 - 1:01PM

    Indeed it is heart warming to see such stories, only if our media could start looking for positives, there would be so many.

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  • Citizen
    Mar 6, 2012 - 1:07PM

    When Money speaks ……

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  • zaid
    Mar 6, 2012 - 1:48PM

    Good yaar. I wish the team does well in our ownership. You’ll have to splash more cash on the training of the team. All the best.

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  • SWK
    Mar 6, 2012 - 2:22PM

    In the first glance, i tought him to be zardari…!!

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  • Citizen
    Mar 6, 2012 - 2:36PM

    is it just me or he resembles bit like our president :D lol

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  • P.K. Dubey
    Mar 6, 2012 - 3:14PM

    He also has, perhaps, the greatest moustache in the world.

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  • Khalid
    Mar 6, 2012 - 3:15PM

    Jaguars is one of the worst teams in American NFL, he has paid way too much for what they are worth, good luck to Mr Khan and his 760 mils.Recommend

  • AK47
    Mar 6, 2012 - 3:21PM

    He resembles Zardari.

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  • elahi
    Mar 6, 2012 - 5:14PM
  • TM
    Mar 6, 2012 - 5:14PM

    Great job………….Khan you inspired!

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  • Pro Bono Publico
    Mar 6, 2012 - 6:05PM

    @Torrent:
    Please. For God sake NO. Cricket doesn’t have a million timeouts. Cricket doesn’t have assigned killers to injure folks on the other side.

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  • SaudiRules
    Mar 6, 2012 - 8:34PM

    Excellent news! Congratulation to mr. khan and family, they a true american success stories. All the readers who are first to criticize USA on drop of a hat, should make a note of this.

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  • Shaizy
    Mar 6, 2012 - 8:55PM

    Looks like an elder brother of Zardari… (Sirf shakal main)…LOLRecommend

  • Raja Islam
    Mar 6, 2012 - 9:11PM

    The common factor for all successful desis (whether Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi) living in the West is that they have gora wives.

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  • Cautious
    Mar 7, 2012 - 12:33AM

    Hard working Pakistani who didn’t come to America wearing his religion on his shirtsleeve – kudos to Khan who is a model of successful integration.

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  • Grace
    Mar 7, 2012 - 3:00AM

    Looks like someone with a Lahori sense of drive and passion!

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  • Haris Farooq
    Mar 7, 2012 - 11:43AM

    You are great Mr. Khan. We are proud of you.

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  • geeko
    Mar 8, 2012 - 12:26AM

    @Truth Teller:
    You don’t really give a good perception of Indians.

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  • Rafiq Khan, Lahore
    Mar 8, 2012 - 7:18AM

    This says a lot about what PAK does not offer its citizens, otherwise why would its smart entrepreneurs want to take their skills to other countries. Imagine how well PAKs would be doing if Khan and the many other successful PAKs now residing elsewhere were allowed to unleash their potential within PAK. But that will not happen until people fell safe, there is an absence of corruption (PAK is ranked worse than Zimbabwe on corruption; can you imagine that), the courts can up trusted to uphold the law and law itself is viewed to be fair. And I will tell you, sharia law will before too long send PAK to the Stone Age.

    My message to Shahid Khan and to all the other entrepreneurs: There are many other countries where you skills are welcome, so run to get there the first opportunity you get. You do not have to put up with this corrupt, feudal society.

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  • Rifiq Khan, Lahore
    Mar 9, 2012 - 2:50AM

    @Truth Teller:
    This cuts both ways. Agree with you that for some this portrays PAKs in good light, but there is another very opposite message.

    What is it about PAK society & institutions (laws, courts, security, politics, bureaucracy, etc.) that would want people to take their skills to other countries? What is it about other countries that let people like Khan succeed there? Did those issues cross your mind?

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  • Nafees Mahmood
    Mar 9, 2012 - 6:14AM

    Well done Mr. Khan.
    I am sure you would have done equally well in Pakistan if the law makers there would enact laws so that a level playing field is provided to all, like it is here. That is the difference between a successful society and a struggling one.

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  • Yasir Mehmood
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:39AM

    Khan sahab also buy an ipl frachise and and buy all pakistani players it will be epic haha

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  • SR Khan
    Mar 12, 2012 - 1:10PM

    Good of Shahid Khan to give back to sports in the country that has given him everything and which is now his new home. Without the US he would never have achieved anything. So it is only natural that Shahid Khan is now a proud patriotic American and is contributing meaningfully to American sports, American society and to American people. That’s good of the US to have welcomed him and given him the opportunities.

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