We all have people we admire in business. One of my business idols is Shahid Khan. Mr. Khan lives in my town Champaign, IL and his main business, Flex-N-Gate is down the road from mine. I had talked earlier in the year about his failed attempt to buy part of the St. Louis Rams but now he finally has his NFL team. Today Shahid announced he purchased 100% of the Jacksonville Jaguars with an estimated value of $725 million.
Many of you know the Frank Schilling story but the Shahid Khan story is no less impressive. Khan, originally from Pakistan, graduated from the University of Illinois. During college he worked at Flex-N-Gate, an Urbana manufacturer of car parts, mainly bumpers. In 1978 he took out a $50,000 business loan and $16,000 of his savings and started rival Bumper Works and manufactured his own bumpers. In 1980 he was able to purchase Flex-N-Gate, his former employer, and by 1989 supplied Toyota with bumpers for every car made in the US.
The next part of the story is hearsay and rumor but the results are fact . During the market turn three years ago the automakers were failing. Heading in the same direction were the auto parts suppliers. GM and other car manufacturers could not afford to have their suppliers go under yet they themselves were having financial troubles so they didn’t have the capital to bail themselves out, let alone other companies . Khan was the man they needed. He had the cash and/or the borrowing power to buy the companies and the auto manufacturers so nicely pointed out the ones that they needed the most. So Kahn bought them. Buying them for a dime on the dollar. The result, two billion in estimated sales in 2010 and enough net worth to buy an NFL team.
My connection to Shahid Khan is a business relationship. We supply his businesses and personal residences with plants. I’ve watched him over the years enjoy something so much he buys it. I was a member of Urbana Country Club and membership was dwindling. It’s a beautiful course and club house but not very many members. Khan thought so to. So he bought it. Of course Khan has a jet, a couple to be exact, and like all jet owners he thought it was a service that others could use so he bought FlightStar, the local jet chartering service that runs out of the Champaign airport. Today a friend of mine told me that a private jet from Illinois flew in to Wisconsin with new Athletic Department head Mike Thomas on board. Thomas is most likely talking to Wisconsin assistant coach Paul Chryst for the Head Football coach position. While I’m not sure, it most likely was one of Khan’s private jets that got him there. Little perks of a Khan relationship.
As a business owner and entrepreneur is a true pleasure to have someone this gifted living right down the road. To watch his empire build year by year. I also run by Jimmy Liautaud’s house every morning as well. You might know him better as Jimmy John, founder of Jimmy John’s subs. It shows that success is not limited to those with a lot of money or geographical location. I too dream of owning a NFL football team and although some may say that it’s a long shot, I say ” the guy down the road did it, why can’t I?” It would be a nice story, two NFL owners in little old Champaign, IL.