When you spend anytime with Shad Khan, it’s easy to see why he’s been so successful in just about everything he’s done. He’s passionate about the things he’s involved in. His eyes light up when you talk about car parts. He has a vision for his football team and a vision for what role he can play in helping the city of Jacksonville. The trip to London is a big part of that economic stimulus Khan is looking for. When I spoke to him on Saturday morning in the library of 45 Park Lane, one of his favorite places in London, Khan was relaxed but focused on making this year’s trip a success for Jacksonville and the Jaguars.
“Last year we laid some of the ground work, and I think this year we’re harvesting some of those things,” he said referring to sponsorships that are being developed for the team and the economic ‘trade mission’ this trip has turned into for the City of Jacksonville. Meetings with a variety of potential international partners from Liverpool to South Africa all could be lucrative contacts for the future.
Khan is interesting in development in Jacksonville for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the positive impact it can have on his franchise. “We want to help. Pretty much from day one I felt and have shown it with action, the community has to grow so the team can grow, sort of a rising tide raising all boats kind of a concept,” he commented when I asked about his commitment to economic growth in the city.
“I’ve played a very active role in what do we have to do to attract jobs here. The Shipyards is just one of those projects to try and do that.” Khan is getting ready to make a proposal to develop the Shipyards with a Jaguars theme, rumored to include a practice field, some retail and possibly even an aquarium.
Recently, Khan was quoted as saying “A homeless guy in Detroit has more mojo than the millionaires in Jacksonville.” He knows he’ll have some opposition to his development ideas but sees incredible potential in the city. When I asked him about civic leadership doing it’s job in bringing business to town, he just laughed. But added, “There’s a lot there, but somehow it just doesn’t translate. I think we can play a role in helping with that.”
And while the city as a whole is in Khan’s vision, his focus is on revitalizing downtown.
“If you look at any urban planning, you cannot have a vibrant city without a vibrant downtown. That is absolutely something we’re lacking. We want to rejuvenate the downtown area. It’s right next to the stadium and there’s a lot of synergy. It’s going to help us.”
This year’s opponent seems to have given this game, and Khan’s and the Jaguars’ role in it a bigger stage. He even brought up Dallas’ image on a national scale. “We’re playing Dallas, they’re America’s Team,” Shad said. “We want to be the face of the league NFL International.”
Part of Khan’ excitement regarding this year’s game is the fact that Dallas is the opponent. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has been one of his mentors in the NFL ownership circle. “Jerry Jones couldn’t be kinder to me. Took me though the idiots guide to owning an NFL team. He’s an Iconic guy, I love him.”
Jones mentioned this week in a press conference that he expected Khan to have a bigger commitment to London. Khan said he’ll assess that shortly. “For us, we want to do the right thing for the franchise and the right thing for the city. We don’t have the growth in the Jacksonville, We know that. How do we stabilize the team. This is the second year of our 4 year commitment, so next year maybe we’ll say that’s the time to say ‘Hey, what do we do.'”
If you watch Khan operate, you see that he has a plan with whatever he’s doing. That certainly applies to his NFL team where the “rebirth and rebuilding” is in it’s second year. “We’ve gone through a process, we’ve got the youngest team in the league. What’s encouraging to me is that the last three or four games have come down to the last few plays. The players have to mature; we can’t lose all those games. It’s up to Gus and myself to get our expectations out clearly.” Which means the players, and coaches, will know exactly what Shad thinks when it comes to wins and losses starting next year.
Recently, Khan was named the most “popular NFL owner” by one publication. Certainly interesting for a guy who’s only been in the public eye for two years. He clearly has embraced that part of ownership but admitted the celebrity aspect of being an NFL owner kind of surprised him.
“I had no experience. The business I had is not a public business. Part of sports is you have to have a public profile. (You) were not interviewing me when we were doing auto parts. Some of the craziest things. Look at the boat on the Thames, who would have thought, I mean this is London, but it’s become a major curiosity. ”
Khan did bring his new boat “Kismet” to London and anchored just east of Tower Bridge. It has caused a stir with tourists constantly stopping to take pictures and make comments.
Khan has a plan for the boat and executed it. It’s Jaguars themed throughout, including a silver Jaguar on the bow with a teal light in its eye. He has the same kind of plan for the city and his football team. The boat was a six-year project. He’s hoping the plan for the team and the city takes less than that.