Shahid Khan was 16 when he moved from Pakistan to the United States to attend the University of Illinois. While hanging out in the basement of his fraternity house, he began his American dream of owning an NFL team.
After building a multibillion-dollar company, Khan started working toward spending some of his fortune on fulfilling that college fantasy. He reached out to owners such as Wayne Weaver of the Jacksonville Jaguars to learn the business from the inside, and for them to get to know him.
Khan's dream-turned-plan crossed the goal line Wednesday. He joined the fraternity of NFL owners as his purchase of the Jaguars from Weaver was unanimously approved by the other owners.
The deal is for an estimated $760 million. The ownership transfer will be complete Jan. 4.
"What I want to share with the Jacksonville fans is: Here I am, reporting for duty and ready to serve the fans. Let the fun begin," Khan said with a smile that never left his face during a 20-minute news conference.
The 61-year-old Khan is the league's first minority owner. But that's not the only reason he stands out among his 31 peers. There's also the prominent mustache he's fancied since 1972, a trademark that he joked enables him to leap tall buildings and "do things I didn't know I could do."
Then again, what he's done to get to this point is pretty remarkable.
Upon graduating from college in 1971, Khan went to work at Flex-N-Gate as an engineering manager. He left in 1978 to start his own company, Bumper Works, and two years later bought his former employer. Now his privately held company is a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America. Revenue last year topped $3 billion, and Khan is believed to be a billionaire himself.
He tried buying the St. Louis Rams last year before landing this deal in late November. Now, he's officially part of the NFL's ownership club, starting right away with the other items on the agenda of this long-planned meeting, although he joked "I've got my training wheels on" because the transfer won't be completely official for a few more weeks.
"I think that's a good sign," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "It's certainly an endorsement of his ownership."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called the Jaguars sale bittersweet because the league is bidding farewell to Weaver. However, Jones praised Khan for his "commitment, his passion and his skill."
"(Weaver) was a real asset to the league, but he did it right and he really brought a very qualified person to the table in Mr. Khan," Jones said. "It takes some skill to come from where he came from to be where he is today. You add that to your (NFL) ownership group, and we've gotten better. ... The more people we can have sitting around those tables in there that have wanted it real bad, that have a paid a high price to get in, and have a vision of how to grow the pie, the better the NFL will be. "
To Jacksonville fans, the biggest questions are his commitment to keeping the team in their city and to turning around a franchise that's struggling in the standings. He made it clear that he's passionate about both.
"This is a partnership, really, with the fans," Khan said. "I am committed obviously to the rebirth, the reinvigoration, doing whatever it takes to put a winner on the field to make Wayne and the other Jacksonvillians proud."
He will be in Jacksonville this weekend to start meeting with fans and sponsors. He and Weaver also will discuss the process of hiring a new coach; Weaver fired Jack Del Rio on Nov. 29, the same day he announced the deal with Khan.
The Jaguars were chosen as an expansion team in 1993 and began playing in 1995. They were a win away from the Super Bowl in their second season, and have made the playoffs five times since, as recently as 2007. They also have hosted a Super Bowl.
"It's been a great 18 years," Weaver said. "But it was the right time. ... I really feel great about handing over the stewardship to Shahid and to finishing the job of bringing a championship to Jacksonville. ... I'm leaving it in good hands."
In other news from Wednesday's meetings:
- The league renewed its television deals with CBS, Fox and NBC for nine years through the 2022 season. The average rights fees from the three networks will increase by an average of 7 percent annually, a person familiar with the details said. That will take the total revenue from them from the current $1.93 billion per year to $3.1 billion by 2022. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the figures were not made public.
"The thing that I'm most proud of through these deals is that we'll continue to be on free television, working with our networks to expand the interest in our game and bring more football to more fans," Goodell said.
- The league is putting together an investment fund that will pool money from the owners.
"The aim of that is to invest in various technology companies that we think are doing great things that will make our world better, but also the experience in the NFL," Goodell said. "They may or may not be NFL partners. They may be people who provide technology in our stadiums, as an example, on our fields, part of media. So we will look at those different technologies. We will have a committee that will be making those decisions, and we're very excited about it."
- The league is putting more money into a program that helps build and renovate stadiums because they are becoming more complex and more expensive.
- "We had to adjust our policy to participate in these projects and to support these projects, both at the club level and the league level," Goodell said.
- Goodell also addressed the league's willingness to suspend players for on-field actions, as evidenced by the two-game penalty against Detroit's Ndamukong Suh for stomping on a player and a one-game punishment against Pittsburgh's James Harrison for a concussion-causing hit on Cleveland's Colt McCoy.
"I think we've been very clear about our commitment to player health and safety, and to what happens on the field," Goodell said. "The rules apply to 32 teams and every player. If it becomes necessary to discipline, we have a discipline schedule that is approved with the NFLPA. It does hold out that suspensions, particularly for the offendant, are likely to occur. We want people to conform with the rules. It's in the best interest for all players, and we will not relent on that."