Shahid Khan: Another Pakistani success story we failed to appreciate
When will we start learning from people like Shahid Khan, instead of picking them apart and judging their actions?
On Saturday, 13 July, my heart swelled with national pride when Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-born billionaire based in the USA, completed the purchase of the English Premier League football club Fulham FC from Egyptian business mogul Mohamed Al Fayed. The completion of the deal, which is valued at around 150 million to 200 million pounds sterling, has made Khan the sixth American and probably the first man of Pakistani origin to purchase a Premier League club.
The purchase of Fulham is not Khan’s first venture into the world of sport. In November 2011, he purchased the National Football League (NFL) team Jacksonville Jaguars, making him the first US ethnic minority member to ever own an NFL team.
Khan, a car parts magnate who is ranked 179th in the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans and is overall the 490th wealthiest man in the world, was not always the successful entrepreneur that he is today. Born in Lahore to humble origins, he moved to the United States in 1968 to study at the University of Illinois, where he worked as a dishwasher. After he graduated with a BSc in Industrial Engineering in 1971, he was hired by an auto parts manufacturer called Flex-n-Gate to work as an engineering director. His life really turned around when he set up his own auto parts manufacturing firm called Bumper Works. He bought Flex-n-Gate in 1980 and grew his business in order to start supplying parts to US automobile giants General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. His company is now valued at $2 billion and has generated approximately 12,000 jobs.
Khan has put in immense effort to make it to where he is today. After the completion of the Fulham deal, Al Fayed aptly called him
"A living embodiment of the American success story”.
It is possible to draw parallels between him and oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who came from humble origins, much like Khan, yet worked his way up to become the one of the richest men to have ever lived. While Khan is not quite as wealthy as Mr. Rockefeller was, his success story should still be seen as a symbol of national pride for Pakistanis as well as a symbol of hope, showing us that the hardest workers may reap the greatest rewards and that we can rise above mediocrity if we apply ourselves with the intent of doing so.
Aggravated by news of his purchase of Fulham, some in Pakistan find Khan a ‘traitor’. They moan and groan about how Khan invests money elsewhere instead of within his native land, Pakistan.
On hearing such thoughts, I am left slightly dumbfounded at their irrationality.
Khan is a businessman. Naturally, as a businessman, he has his own interests in mind when investing money. He did not buy Fulham with the simple enthusiasm of a fan (although he was careful to state their interests were uppermost on his mind). He bought it because he sees it as an investment which, if managed well, shall deliver him returns for years to come. He earned his money by working for it and he should be free to do as he pleases with his earnings.
When will we start learning from people whose examples we can follow in, instead of picking them apart and judging their actions?
So long as this attitude of finding fault when none is due in home-born success stories continues, Pakistanis will seldom see greatness that the likes of Shahid Khan has. He did not make his fortune by envying the achievements of others. Neither will we.