National Football League team owners unanimously approved the sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars to Shahid Khan, the owner of auto-parts maker Flex-N-Gate Corp. who failed in a bid last year to buy the St. Louis Rams.
The Jaguars fired coach Jack Del Rio on Nov. 29, the day 76-year-old Wayne Weaver said he was selling the team. Khan told reporters at a news conference during an NFL owners meeting in Irving, Texas, today that he plans to keep the Jaguars in the northeast Florida city.
“I’m totally committed to Jacksonville,” Khan said. “Accountability to the fans starts right now. Now it’s all going to be about performance on and off the field.”
The Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 11 to end a three-game losing streak and move to 4-9 this season. The team has an estimated value of $725 million, the lowest in the NFL, according to Forbes and ranks 25th among the 32 teams in attendance this year with three regular-season games remaining.
The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. Khan takes control on Jan. 4 and in the interim will discuss progress on the search for a new coach with Weaver. Other priorities will be to meet sponsors, key employees, city leaders and fans, Khan said.
“This is a business, but I think it’s also a civic asset,” Khan said. “This is really a combination of business acumen and a love of football.”
Khan left his native Pakistan in 1967 at 16 to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and began working for Flex-N-Gate three years later while still an engineering student. He left the company in 1978 to begin a business that designed and manufactured lightweight metal bumper systems, with no seams to corrode or rust.
Khan bought Urbana, Illinois-based Flex-N-Gate in 1980. The company now has more than 10,000 employees at 48 manufacturing plants with annual sales exceeding $3 billion.
Almost two-thirds of North American-built pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles have bumper systems based on Khan’s designs, according to data released by the Jaguars.
Khan agreed in February 2010 to buy a controlling interest in the Rams before billionaire Stan Kroenke exercised an option to purchase the 60 percent of the club he didn’t own.
Weaver, the owner of shoe retailer Shoe Carnival Inc. (SCVL) and chairman of wholesale distributor Liz Claiborne Shoes, bought the Jaguars for $208 million in 1993, two years before they started play as an expansion team.
“It’s hard to break away from the National Football League,” Weaver said today. “It’s bittersweet for me but it was the right time.”
The Jaguars, the only team in the four major U.S. professional sports to play in Jacksonville, made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons and have been to the postseason twice since. The Jaguars last finished with a winning record in 2007, when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs before losing to the New England Patriots. Jacksonville is 5-6 in the postseason.
“We’ve had a tough season this year,” Weaver said. “But I would tell you that we’re only a couple of drafts away from being a really competitive football team.”
Del Rio was fired as coach after going 68-71 since taking over in 2003.
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