We first heard about the billionaire Shahid Khan in late 2011, when he became the surprising new owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Khan was born in Pakistan and is the first ethnic owner of the NFL in the history of the sport. It’s also a truly inspiring wealth rags story. Long before owning a billionaire NFL team, he lived in a $ 2-a-night room in a YMCA and made $ 1.20 an hour washing dishes. Needless to say, he’s come a long way.
Khan left Pakistan for the United States as a 16-year-old engineering student at the University of Illinois. He arrived in Champaign in the middle of an Illinois winter, with a blizzard swirling around him. He only had $ 500 in his name, which was the life savings of his family. The dorms weren’t open yet, so he found a room at the YMCA and got a job in that facility’s kitchen washing the dishes so he wouldn’t burn his $ 500 too quickly. After Khan moved into the dorms, he embraced American college life by joining the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He graduated with an industrial engineering degree in 1971 and accepted a job at a local auto parts company called Flex. -N-Gate. Khan oversaw the production of Flex-N-Gate for seven years and observed during this time that the company’s bumpers were not being manufactured efficiently. He tinkered with the process to make it less complicated and in doing so revolutionized the business.
In 1978, Khan started his own business with a small business loan. Customers have flocked to his Bumper Works business. Khan came up with a design that makes bumpers from a single piece of steel rather than a number of different pieces. General Motors contracted with him for bumpers that would fine tune their popular Chevy LUV pickup to meet weight requirements. Chrysler has contracted with Khan to lighten its Dodge D50 truck. Unfortunately, Flex-N-Go sued Khan for theft of trade secrets. Khan hired the cheapest lawyer he could find, then spent nights at his alma mater’s law library, preparing a defense after long days overseeing production at Bumper Works. The legal battle lasted two years. Khan won every case. Ultimately, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear Flex-N-Gate’s second appeal. In 1980, Khan bought his former employer. Khan combined Bumper Works and Flex-N-Gate and made a list of his competitors. He carried this list of 19 companies until one by one they all went bankrupt.
Khan’s deal with GM fell apart, but the automaker introduced him to executives from Isuzu, which was just starting to import cars and trucks into the United States. He won the trust of the leaders of Isuzu. The automaker needed suppliers and Khan was their man. As the Japanese import market grew, Khan’s business grew with them. After landing at Isuzu, Mazda quickly followed suit. Then it hit the big time, making Toyota a Flex-N-Gate customer. In 1989, it was their sole supplier of bumpers. Khan is the sole shareholder of Flex-N-Gate. In 2001, the company’s sales exceeded $ 1 billion annually.
As Khan’s wealth grew, he began to check the ratings of NFL teams to see if he was still wealthy enough to buy one. In 2010, he won the tender for a 60% stake in the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, the minority owner Stan kroenke exercised its right to match any offer and decided to do so. Almost as soon as Khan lost to the Rams, Wayne Weaver, then owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, approached him and told him he wanted to sell the team. Khan learned a lot from the Rams deal and when the opportunity to buy the Jaguars presented itself he acted quickly. In October 2011, the final price of the Jacksonville NFL franchise was hammered on a cocktail napkin at the Omni Jacksonville hotel bar. Khan agreed to a $ 620 million cash deal and he would take on the Jags’ $ 150 million debt. He released $ 300 million in loans against Flex-N-Gate to complete the transaction.
Khan is the epitome of the American dream. He worked hard, tenaciously created his own luck, and built a personal fortune of $ 9 billion. Shahid Khan’s experience is one of the greatest American success stories of all time.