Prospective Jacksonville Jaguars buyer Shahid Khan, who earned approval from all 32 National Football League owners Wednesday to buy the franchise, heads to Jacksonville this weekend.
Khan is scheduled to attend the Jaguars game with franchise owner Wayne Weaver tonight in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome and then meet with media at 3 p.m. Friday at EverBank Field. The Jaguars website reports that Khan will be in Jacksonville over the weekend to meet with Weaver and key team officials.
Khan is expected to complete the purchase of the franchise Jan. 4.
Calling it the culmination of an American dream, Khan faced the media Wednesday afternoon in Texas to say he was committed to keeping the franchise in Jacksonville, reports WJXT TV-4.
“Here I am, reporting for duty and ready to serve the fans,” Khan said. “Let the fun begin.”
He also commented about Jacksonville.
“I’m committed to the rebirth and reinvigoration and to do whatever it takes to put a winner on the field and really make Wayne and the rest of the Jacksonvillians proud,” Khan said.
A tweet from National Football League spokesman Greg Aiello at 2:37 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday confirmed what everyone expected: The 32 league owners approved Khan as the new owner of the franchise. They met in Irving, Texas.
The owners unanimously approved Khan as the league’s first minority owner. He also was unanimously approved to purchase the team by the NFL Finance Committee last week.
The Pakistani-born Illinois businessman reached an agreement with Weaver last month to purchase the Jaguars for a reported $760 million.
Before introducing Khan at an afternoon news conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thanked Weaver for his contributions to the league, according to Channel 4.
“It is an emotional day,” Weaver said. “Eighteen great years in the National Football League, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them.”
For several years Weaver had been seeking a buyer who would keep the team in Jacksonville.
Khan, 61, came to the United States as a teenager to attend the University of Illinois. In 1980, he purchased Flex-N-Gate Corp., a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America.
According to Channel 4, the team owners walked into the meeting just before 2 p.m. As he entered, Weaver told Channel 4’s Sam Kouvaris that this is “a bittersweet time, but it’s the right time.”
Asked if he would be as involved in the community as the Weavers have been, Khan said he believed that an NFL team is more than a business and is also a civic asset, and it must be done in partnership with the community.
“(Following) the Weavers, we have huge, big shoes to fill, but Ann and I will do our best,” Khan said.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown immediately sent his congratulations to the new owner.
“Mr. Khan’s stated commitment to keeping our team in Jacksonville has done so much to energize the Jaguars’ fan base and create a tremendous sense of optimism about the future of the team,” Brown said in a statement distributed to reporters.
Channel 4 reported that according to Brown’s predecessor John Peyton, the Jaguars’ economic impact on Jacksonville is more than $130 million per year. Every game day, about 2,000 people work either part time or under contract in concessions, ticket taking, parking, security, customer service or custodial operations.
A University of North Florida/Chamber of Commerce study several years ago estimated that the Jaguars bring about $200 million into the city every year.
“He is coming in here with a commitment to Jacksonville,” said Jerry Mallot, president of the JAXUSA Partnership For Regional Economic Development of the JAX Chamber.
“He has already indicated an interest in helping us build our business base and grow the economy. We hope that could be part of his own businesses,” Mallot said.
Brown said in his statement that he welcomes Khan to Jacksonville.
“I hope he will decide to make a home in Jacksonville. Downtown would be a great place to live,” he said.
“As mayor, I’m committed to helping Mr. Khan. The Jaguars are our team and as a city we should do everything we can to make our new team owner and his family feel welcome,” said Brown.
“I also acknowledge Wayne Weaver for doing the due diligence in selecting a successor who would honor Jacksonville’s interests in remaining an NFL city,” he said.
As we enter this new era for the Jaguars, I want to thank Wayne and Delores Weaver for their many years of ownership of the team and leadership in our community,” he said.
The Jaguars website reports that Khan will meet with Weaver and General Manager Gene Smith to start the process of hiring a new head coach. Weaver announced the firing of former coach Jack Del Rio the same day, Nov. 29, that he announced the plan to sell the team to Khan.
“I’ve got my training wheels on,” Khan said Wednesday after the owners’ vote at the Four Seasons Resort. “They come off January 4.”
Asked about the popularity of his mustache, the Jaguars website said Khan responded: “If I am to believe the Jacksonville fans, a mustache can leap tall building in a single bound. It can do things I didn’t know it could do.”