Wembley sold: Shahid Khan, from immigrant with $500 in his pocket to self-made billionaire – meet Wembley’s new owner

SELF-MADE billionaire Shahid Khan is often called the face of the American Dream, with his opulent lifestyle an example to others.

The son of a Lahore construction worker, he arrived in the USA in the 1960s aged 16 with just $500 to his name – and now commands a global business empire.

 Shahid Khan is one of the most recognisable faces in American sport

PA:EMPICS SPORT: Shahid Khan is one of the most recognisable faces in American sport
 Wembley's new owner lives in a £6million penthouse in Chicago that he bought in 2006

DAVID YELLEN: Wembley’s new owner lives in a £6million penthouse in Chicago that he bought in 2006

His vast wealth has seen him purchase a gold piano for his £80million yacht, a Renoir masterpiece and incredible mansions – a far cry from his humble origins.

Khan was born in July 1950 in Pakistan.

His dad – one of 50-plus children – was a lawyer and entrepreneur who had seven wives while his mum, a maths professor, was the youngest of eight children.

Known for his extravagant facial hair, love of sport and infectious enthusiasm, Khan has become a celebrity in Jacksonville after fulfilling his 40-year dream of owning an NFL franchise.

 Khan has made the transition from $2-a-night hostels to super yachts

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CLASSIC – GETTY: Khan has made the transition from $2-a-night hostels to super yachts
 The businessman owns the Portrait of Pierre Renoir in a Sailor suit - a priceless masterpiece

DAVID YELLEN: The businessman owns the Portrait of Pierre Renoir in a Sailor suit – a priceless masterpiece
 Shahid Khan's plush bathroom is modelled on the ancient spas in Pompeii after he completely remodelled his Chicago home

DAVID YELLEN: Shahid Khan’s plush bathroom is modelled on the ancient spas in Pompeii after he completely remodelled his Chicago home

It was 1967 when the young Khan first made the move away from his native Pakistan, where he enjoyed a relatively comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

He came to the US to study at the University of Illnois and within four years had graduated with a BSc in industrial engineering.

But it hadn’t started out easy for the teenager, who washed dishes for 85p an hour in his first job Stateside – and had to live in a £1.20-a-night room given to him by the YMCA.

The transformation from dish washer to billionaire began at car parts company Flex-N-Gate, who gave Khan a job once he graduated in 1971.

WEM-BER-LEAVE: ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

When could the sale be done?

The FA Board only received details of Shahid Khan’s offer this morning and the process will take weeks and possibly months. In the short-term, nothing will alter.

When could the sale be done?

Will things change swiftly?

What does it mean?

Wembley chief executive Martin Glenn believes the proposed deal is a game-changer for English football, releasing funding for grass roots development that would otherwise be inconceivable.

The endowment fund for future grass roots projects will bring £500m into the development of the game at all levels, allowing better facilities, more coaches and opening up more opportunities for girls and women to play.

What does it mean?

Are we going to get “McDonald’s Wembley”?

The FA have demanded that Khan agrees the ground remains known as ‘Wembley Stadium’, at least for now.

That suggests naming rights are not immediately on the agenda, although it keeps alive the possibility of “Wembley Stadium, sponsored by Panasonic” or whomever.

Will the FA Cup Final be moved away from Wembley?

Absolutely not. Khan is keen to ensure the marquee events held at the ground will continue to be staged there.

That includes the FA Cup Final and presumably the EFL Cup Final and play-off finals, as well as the majority of England home games.

But it could see the semi-finals reverting to ‘neutral grounds’ like Old Trafford, the Emirates or Villa Park in the future, preserving Wembley for the final.

One factor against that is that only Wembley can house 90,000 supporters.

Will the FA Cup Final be moved away from Wembley?

Does this mean an NFL franchise in London?

It certainly looks that way, especially as the FA are preparing to send the England team ‘on the road’ round the country for the autumn games if fixtures clash with Jaguars home games in the NFL schedule.

Khan will presumably have already have consulted with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about his plans but any relocation of the franchise would still need to be approved by a vote of the 32 NFL team owners.

Taking a franchise out of the USA for the first time will be a big and controversial call, although it would open up the entire European market given the easy transport links to London.

But aren’t the NFL moving to Tottenham?

The NFL have certainly funded part of the cost of the new Spurs stadium at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy signed a 10-year deal to play two NFL matches per season at the new stadium last year, separate NFL-sized dressing rooms are being built in the East Stand of the 62,000-capacity ground and the grass pitch will be rolled out to allow NFL matches (and concerts) to take place on the artificial turf below.

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Whether this means more games in London in addition to Jacksonville’s home matches is less clear but Levy will have signed a deal with cast-iron financial guarantees.

But aren’t the NFL moving to Tottenham?

What about Chelsea – aren’t they going to move to Wembley?

Wembley was certainly the most likely option for the Blues as they embark on the £1billion-plus revamp of Stamford Bridge, although that is now now expected to start until at least the 2019-20 season, if not a year later.

Chelsea need to find a home for four seasons but the demands of the NFL fixtures from September through to the end of December – and beyond if the Jags secured home advantage for the play-offs – would appear to scupper that possibility, adding problems for Roman Abramovich and his board to overcome.

But if Khan loses interest – could Wembley be knocked down for housing?

No. There will be a cast-iron agreement in place that Wembley remains a sports and entertainment venue. In any event, Brent Council, the Mayor of London and the Government would have to approve such a huge conversion project and there seems no chance that they would assent to the permanent loss of such an iconic national building. The only real difference will be that the income – and costs – will be for Khan to deal with.

But if Khan loses interest - could Wembley be knocked down for housing?

 The young Khan worked as a dish-washer for just $1.20-an-hour

REUTERS: The young Khan worked as a dish-washer for just $1.20-an-hour
 Now he sleeps in ultimate luxury - a far cry from the YMCA hostel - in a home described by Frobes as 'fit for a king' after it was redecorated top to bottom

DAVID YELLEN: Now he sleeps in ultimate luxury – a far cry from the YMCA hostel – in a home described by Frobes as ‘fit for a king’ after it was redecorated top to bottom
 Khan and his wife Ann give to many charities in the Jacksonville area

REUTERS: Khan and his wife Ann give to many charities in the Jacksonville area

Just seven years later he broke away from the company and with his own savings founded Bumper Gate, which specialised in custom parts for pick-ups.

Its huge success meant that just two years later he returned to his old employers – and bought Flex-N-Gate for himself.

Over a 30-year period, Khan built up the company from local to worldwide supplier, cleverly cornering the lucrative Toyota market and expanding throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

 Khan's stunning 380ft yacht docked in Canary Wharf

REX FEATURES: Khan’s stunning 380ft yacht docked in Canary Wharf

By 2010, Flex-N-Gate had 12,450 employees and 48 manufacturing plants across the US, bringing in around £2.5bn in revenue for Khan.

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In 2006, he splashed out £6million on a Chicago penthouse in which he has a Pompeii-inspired bathroom and priceless art.

But despite auto parts being the money-maker for Khan, his newfound wealth drew him towards his first love – sport.

He had a long-term relationship with Jacksonville – his company had a shipping port there – and the dream of owning an NFL franchise was formed all those years ago when he used to watch games on a clapped out TV between dish-washing shifts.

 Khan is keen to set-up an NFL franchise in the UK

PA:PRESS ASSOCIATION: Khan is keen to set-up an NFL franchise in the UK

Khan’s first attempt at going into the NFL was in 2010 and although his 60 per cent bid for the St Louis Rams was rejected, a year later he had his hands on the Jags for a cool £543m.

As an NFL boss, Khan has broken the mould – speaking out against recent race issues, routinely joining his players on the field in a show of solidarity, and promoting the sport over in the UK.

 The Jags owner stood with his team in the recent NFL protests

REUTERS: The Jags owner stood with his team in the recent NFL protests

From Twin Towers to the Arch for £757m

Dec 1996
Wembley selected as preferred site by Sport England for new national stadium.

Nov 1998
Project handed £120m lottery funding by Sport England.

Sept 2002
Old stadium demolished as government stumps up £20m in return for more control. WSNL secures £433m in bank loans for a project with revised cost of £757m.

Oct 2002
Construction finally begins on new Wembley Stadium.

March 2007
Work is finally completed at total cost around £1billion – over twice the £458m price quoted. Multiplex make £150m losses, later suing engineering consultants.

May 2007
Football  returns to Wembley after almost seven years. Didier Drogba’s extra-time winner gives Chelsea 1-0 victory over Manchester United in FA Cup final.

Fulham was already on his radar after the Jags purchase and he bought the club from Mohamed Al Fayad in 2013, for what was rumoured to be around £150m-£200m.

The tycoon has flown his Jags over to Wembley every year since he took charge and always ensures that the home of Football is designated as a “home” game for Jacksonville.

Khan and his wife Ann – who have two children Tony and Shanna – have adopted Jacksonville as their own city, and the man who arrived with just $500 in his pocket was given American citizenship in 1991.

 The Jaguars owner enjoys relaxing on his piano inside his lavish boat, which cost £80m

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CLASSIC – GETTY: The Jaguars owner enjoys relaxing on his piano inside his lavish boat, which cost £80m

Now with a net worth of over £5.65bn and ranked the 158th wealthiest man in the world, Khan continues to give to charity and runs youth programmes in the inner-cities.

The Jags had their best season under Khan this year, reaching the play-offs for the first time since 2007 – and he’s keen to push them all the way to the Super Bowl one day.

With his hopes to establish an NFL franchise over in London, you’re likely to be seeing plenty more of that impressive moustache in the future.

 

 

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