LONDON (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan bought the English soccer club Fulham on Friday, becoming the sixth American owner among the 20 teams currently in the Premier League.
The deal between previous owner Mohamed Al Fayed and Khan for the sale of the London club was completed on Friday and approved by the Premier League. Financial details were not disclosed.
“Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me,” Khan said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “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. 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.
“We will manage the club’s financial and operational affairs with prudence and care, with youth development and community programs as fundamentally important elements of Fulham’s future.”
Al Fayed, an Egyptian businessman, has owned Fulham since 1997 and is leaving the club debt-free as it prepares for a 13th Premier League season.
“He is giving me the privilege and responsibility of serving as the next custodian of Fulham Football club,” Khan said. “I am extremely honored to accept and want to thank him, on behalf of everyone who loves Fulham, for 16 years of exceptional service to the Club. Mr. Al Fayed rescued the club in its hour of need and has led it to a sustained place within the Premier League.”
Manchester United (Glazer family), Arsenal (Stan Kroenke), Liverpool (John Henry), Aston Villa (Randy Lerner) and Sunderland (Ellis Short) also are controlled by American owners.
NBC’s networks will televise matches from August under a $250 million, three-year deal.
Fulham plays at Craven Cottage, a 25,700-seat stadium on the banks of the River Thames in west London. The venue has been the club’s home for most years since 1896, and the team was given approval last year to redevelop its Riverside stand and increase capacity to 30,000.
The Cottagers, who finished 12th last season, have never won a major trophy but reached the final of both the FA Cup in 1975 and the Europa League in 2010 under current England coach Roy Hodgson. Fulham has had a string of American players in recent seasons, including Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Kasey Keller and Eddie Johnson, and a hospitality area at the stadium is named after McBride.
The sale comes with Khan’s Jaguars preparing to play NFL regular-season games in London.
The Jaguars have a deal to play one home game in London for four consecutive seasons starting in October at Wembley Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.
Khan, who owns Flex-N-Gate Corporation, a leading American automotive supplier, moved to the U.S from his native Pakistan as a 16-year-old in 1967. Forbes magazine estimates Khan is worth $2.9 billion.
“By his hard work, vision and determination, Shahid Khan has become a living embodiment of the American success story,” Al Fayed said. “His achievements speak for themselves. I met him twice prior to our successful transaction this week and have been very favorably impressed.”
The 84-year-old Al Fayed, the former owner of Harrods department store, said he is retiring to spend time playing soccer with his grandchildren.
Al Fayed has been largely adored by fans for investing money into the club, but one of his contentious decisions was to place a statue of the late pop star Michael Jackson outside the stadium in 2011. Al Fayed wanted to commemorate his friendship with the “King of Pop,” who died in 2009.
Al Fayed’s son Dodi died in a 1997 car crash in Paris along with Princess Diana
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