Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan says he’s tired of talk that any flag other than Four Seasons will be on his proposed five-star hotel on the Downtown riverfront.
Media asked Khan Dec. 13 about the status of negotiations with Four Seasons leadership to secure a branding deal during a nearly 50-minute sit-down on his personal yacht Kismet.
“It’s such an idiotic question. There’s no other way of putting it,” Khan told reporters.
“You think we’d be out there talking about it as a scam? That’s ridiculous.”
The conversation covered Khan’s on-field and off-field successes and setbacks to mark his 10-year anniversary of buying the team from former franchise owner Wayne Weaver.
NFL team owners unanimously approved Khan’s offer to buy the Jaguars on Dec. 14, 2011.
Khan said in the 10 years he’s owned the Jaguars, Downtown Jacksonville’s development “absolutely hasn’t progressed” and “it’s gone downhill.”
Khan said Jacksonville “needs something aspirational.”
“You are defined by the best experience in town and the worst experience in town,” Khan said.
“We need to elevate the best experience in town.”
Khan said his ownership of the company’s flagship Four Seasons Hotel Toronto puts the future hotel near TIAA Bank Field in a good position with the upscale brand.
He noted that the founder of Four Seasons, Isadore Sharp, lives in Toronto “10 minutes” from the flagship hotel.
Four Seasons is headquartered in Toronto.
“Can you connect the dots?” Khan said.
“The simple fact is there’s nothing that happens at Four Seasons that doesn’t go through Four Seasons Toronto,” Khan said.
“Whether it’s talent development, whether it’s the business people, whether it’s the power brokers in Canada … whether it’s the Prime Minister (or) Lady Gaga, they all go through there. All of them, I’ve met them at Four Seasons.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 8 that Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal agreed to sell half his stake in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to co-owner Bill Gates.
The deal valued the hotel operator at $10 billion and gave Gates a controlling stake through his company Cascade Investments LLC, according to the WSJ.
The report says Cascade will hold 71.25% of Four Seasons when the deal is complete. Prince al-Waleed’s Saudi Arabia-based Kingdom Holding Company will keep a 23.75% stake. Sharp retains a 5% holding, according to the WSJ.
Khan bought the Toronto Four Seasons in 2016 through family holdings from an affiliate of Kingdom Holding for $172 million.
During negotiations last summer with the Jacksonville City Council for a $114 million incentives deal to assist with the project, Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Khan and his companies are working toward an agreement with the Four Seasons flag.
Plans for the estimated $321 million Four Seasons Hotel and Residences development on the former Kids Kampus park also include a six-story office building and a city-owned marina.
Khan’s development company, Iguana Investments Florida LLC, is handling the project.
If Khan or the owner of the hotel parcel at the time wants to change the flag from a Four Seasons, the deal states the Downtown Investment Authority must approve it to “ensure that the hotel continues to be operated by a luxury brand” — a four- or five-star product determined by Forbes Travel Guide or “other respected source in the hospitality industry.”
When asked Dec. 13, Khan didn’t say who he’s talking to at Four Seasons to bring the product to Jacksonville.
“As a matter of fact, they (Four Seasons) told me, ‘look, we don’t know if it’s going to work but since you want it, we’re going to do it,’” Khan said.
“But if it doesn’t work, I’m the one picking up the tab, so don’t worry about that,” he said.
On the Kismet, Khan said his company already has “a bunch of people” who want to live in the hotel’s residential condominiums.
Plans call for 25 high-end, for-sale residences. Khan believes the condo clientele will bring with them a push to redevelop Downtown.
“Our preference is we want the movers and shakers to buy those who can make a difference in Jacksonville,” Khan said.
“So they are coming Downtown. Then, all of the sudden, the rest of the area is going to get gentrified and urbanized. It is like planting a seed that’s going to make a difference.”
In October, Lamping said another goal is for the hotel to draw leisure travelers to Downtown coming to the Sports Complex for events and concerts and capture business travelers who are “not fully satisfied” with existing Downtown hotels.
“Shad’s reminding a lot of people in Jacksonville, ‘you know what, you are good enough to have a Four Seasons,’” Lamping said. “Although, many people in Jacksonville said, ‘Why would they come here? We don’t deserve a Four Seasons.’”