'Fulham's a special place and a perfect club,' says new owner Shahid Khan

Self made billionaire pledges to uphold traditions but has big act to follow

In one way Fulham have gone downmarket. When Mohamed Al Fayed took over the club 16 years ago he was proprietor of Harrods. The new owner, Shahid Khan, makes car parts. But yesterday it was clear everyone connected with Craven Cottage, from administrators through to the fans, believe that the man with the moustache is just the chap to take over Fulham and lift them to the mythical "next stage" all mid-table Premier League clubs dream of – Champions' League football – while safeguarding the traditions of what the fans like to call "this family club" down by the Thames.

And this is not just because Khan at about £1.8 billion is estimated to be worth twice as much as Al Fayed, but because the eccentric Egyptian has won such a place in the hearts of the fans during his long reign that they trust him implicitly to choose the right successor to build sympathetically on his legacy.

This fluffy frontage does not chime completely with hard-nosed whispers: that Al Fayed has been planning a sale for the last two years, running the team down, squeezing salaries and running costs to show improving cash flow, selling now when future TV revenue streams look good and before money needs spending to keep the team in the Premier League.

But a man who built his business from a garage to one which employs 17,000 people is no mug. He will have done his homework. And yesterday he said nothing to compromise a smooth reception.

When asked if he had any plans for long-term redevelopment of Craven Cottage as a prime site for housing, like previous chancers had tried, he spoke about "respecting history" and "this special place", adding: "My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future."

As for fears he may turn this friendly club into a soulless, money-making monster, he said: "We will manage the club's financial and operational affairs with prudence and care." Both men separately described themselves as a "custodian of the club, not an owner" in their respective press-release quotes – a clearly co-ordinated phrase, all designed to make the right impression.

So why would a successful businessman pay between £150-200m to buy a mid-table Premier League club in a deal that took just two weeks to agree? "I love football, or soccer," said Khan, also owner of the NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars. He also revealed he had been to Craven Cottage before, "I think in '07 when Liverpool played".

Of course, the huge income potential from TV and marketing that comes from being a Premier League side was quite an attraction and, as Al Fayed knows only too well, there is the buzz of being adored.

When he took over in 1997 the presumption was that he had bought the club to help further his aims to gain British citizenship. Now the club are possibly about to name a new stand after him.

The money Khan has paid for ownership of Fulham just about repays the 84-year-old Al Fayed what he spent lifting the team from the third tier to the Europa League final. Fulham fans fed previously on a diet of fights against greedy owners trying to redevelop Craven Cottage, away trips to Torquay and even the threat of extinction know a saviour when they see one.

So how does Khan follow that? "We have to have a winning, sustainable club moving forward," he said. "It is a very special place and a perfect club for me at a perfect time."

He plans to stop off in Costa Rica this week to speak to Fulham's manager, Martin Jol, on the club's pre-season tour, learn his "plan" for the coming season then "give them all the support they need financially to be successful on the pitch".

Khan also plans to push ahead with plans to redevelop the Riverside Stand (Al Fayed Stand?) at the ground, starting next May, to increase capacity to 30,000. It all sounds good. But only time will tell.

Cottage questions

Who is Shahid Khan?

He came from Pakistan aged 16 and now owns Flex-N-Gate Group, the 14th largest American "automotive supplier". Basically, he made his money from selling lorry bumpers.

Why do Yanks like our clubs?

Khan will be the sixth American owner of a top-flight club. He says he loves London and after speaking to two other US owners, the Glazers of Manchester United, and Stan Kroenke of Arsenal, last week about buying Fulham, they told him to "go for it" and that he will "get hooked".

Will the Jaguars move to London?

He insists they are separate entities and plans only the four regular- season games over the next four seasons already scheduled for Wembley.

Is Al Fayed sad at selling?

"It was a difficult decision as I love the club." Fans are certainly relieved the 84-year-old sold before he died. "Finding someone he has faith in was important," said Fulham Supporters Trust director Barry Gilbertson.

Will Khan watch what he says?

When Al Fayed erected a statue at Craven Cottage to his "friend" Michael Jackson, he said that the club's fans could "go to hell" if they didn't like it. On choosing Khan as his successor he explained: "I'm sure the fans are happy that I didn't pass the club to a junkie."

So what about Michael Jckson?

Will the statue stay? "I'll reflect on it and listen to the fans," said Khan. "If he dares move it he will be in trouble," countered Al Fayed. "I will come in front of the fans with a big razor and take your moustache off."

Star-spangled clubs

Arsenal Owner: Stan Kroenke Estimated net worth: $5bn. Base: Colorado. Bought: 2007-11. Estimated cost: £420m (62% controlling interest).

Aston Villa Owner: Randy Lerner; Est net worth: $1.1bn. Base: New York. Bought: 2006. Cost: £63m.

Fulham Owner: Shahid Khan; Estimated net worth: £1.8bn. Bought: 2013. Cost: £150-200m (100 per cent ownership). Khan is ranked 179th richest American and 491st wealthiest person in the world.

Liverpool Owner: John Henry (as part of Fenway Group); Estimated net worth: $1.5bn. Base: Boston and Florida. Bought: 2010. Cost: £300m.

Man Utd Owner: Malcolm Glazer; Est net worth: $4.4bn. Base: Florida. Bought: 2003-05. Cost: £780m (mostly via loans).

Sunderland Owner: Ellis Short; Estimated net worth: $800m. Bought: 2008-09. Estimated cost: £80m.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes