Profile - New Fulham owner Khan will be up-front and personal

13.07.2013 16:42

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
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, Pakistan, 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."
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. (Editing by Frank Pingue)