April 27, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — Pakistan-born American billionaire Shahid Khan, the owner of NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has submitted a whopping one billion pound bid to acquire London’s iconic Wembley Stadium.
“I promise Wembley WILL still be the cradle of English football,” said Khan after he made an £950 million offer to the UK’s Football Association.
Khan, who nursed a long-term project to bring the NFL and his Jaguars football franchise more regularly to Wembley, wants it to become the ‘greatest stadium on the planet’.
The English Football Association (FA) has confirmed that they had received an offer from Khan to buy the stadium, The Telegraph and The London Evening Standard reported.
The 67-year-old billionaire had been considering this move, on and off, for several years before he finally raised the idea with Martin Glenn, the FA’s chief executive, at the Superbowl in Houston last February.
According to the reports, Khan has struck an outline agreement with the FA boss to transfer Wembley to foreign ownership for the first time. For Khan, the attraction appears to be expanding the NFL into London and ensuring the Jaguars have preeminent rights to be the team who play there. While the NFL season is on, from September to January, the FA has accepted that England matches will not be played at Wembley and move around major club grounds instead, report The Guardian.
Wembley was first opened as English soccer’s national stadium in 1923 and reopened after being rebuilt in 2007. It has a seating capacity of almost 90,000.
Who is Shahid Khan, the entrepreneur who turned $500 into a $5bn empire and wants to buy Wembley?
Khan also owns the Fulham soccer club in UK, the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and a 300-foot super yacht, called Kismet, that is often spotted in the Thames. He is currently worth more than £5bn, according to Forbes, which is some return from the $500 (£360) he had to his name when he arrived in the United States as a 16-year-old boy.
Once in the US, where he had come to study mechanical engineering, Khan found work scrubbing dishes before taking a job at Flex-N-Gate, an automotive manufacturing company, alongside his studies. After graduating, he became the company’s engineering manager and then left to create Bumper Works, where he designed a one-piece steel bumper that is still considered the industry standard.
Khan subsequently bought out his old employers at Flex-N-Gate, soon acquiring contracts to supply all Japanese-produced trucks that were imported to the US.
As the riches began to flow, he found himself on the lookout for new opportunities. An attempt to purchase the St Louis Rams was scuppered in 2010 by part-owner Stan Kroenke, the majority shareholder of UK’s Arsenal soccer club, but an opportunity to pounce on the NFL football team the Jaguars appeared a year later.
The deal, at a cost of $770m, made him the first ethnic minority to own an NFL team, and the reaction to a Muslim from Pakistan moving into America’s most beloved sport prompted a predictably vile response from some in the country’s more conservative corners.
Khan was labelled a “sand monkey” and a “terrorist from Pakistan”, while one person asked whether season tickets would now come with a prayer rug. “It gave me more determination,” he has said.
The purchase also gave him a greater profile. He was now one of the sport’s most influential figures and, thanks in part to his extravagant facial hair, he had become known nationwide. “In sport there is huge visibility,” he said in 2013. “You are in a 24-hour news cycle. Every mistake you make is out there. You are judged.”
Fortunately for Khan, there have not been many of those mistakes to be judged upon. He is popular in Florida, and at Fulham, which he bought from Mohamed Al Fayed in 2013 for a deal worth between £150m and £200m. It helped Khan’s cause that, after the takeover, he was able to score an easy PR victory by removing the ghastly Michael Jackson statue that had been erected by Al Fayed outside Craven Cottage, which Khan described on Thursday as a “jewel”.
There have been hiccups, though, and despite Khan’s impressive resume (and bank balance) there are still reasons for the FA to feel a little jittery at the prospect of the national stadium falling into his hands. Those doubts may revolve around who takes control when Khan no longer runs his empire.
His son Tony has had a mixed record at Fulham, where he serves as vice chairman and director of football operations. He appointed Craig Kline, his college friend, with the remit to revolutionize the club’s transfer record, prompting public opposition from Jokanovic, who won the battle after Kline fell out with Khan.
Sources close to Khan say there would be no plans to sell Wembley if any purchase is completed, so a change of leadership remains a distant prospect. It does, however, provide a curious footnote to a deal which many at the FA see as having no major downsides.