Byline: Vito Stellino
Shahid R. Khan moved one step closer to becoming the first minority owner in the 92-year history of the National Football League on Tuesday when the league's finance committee unanimously approved his application to buy the Jaguars at a meeting at league headquarters in New York.
The entire ownership will now vote to on his $760 million purchase of the team - the third-highest price in league history - at a previously scheduled meeting in Dallas next Wednesday.
"It is unbelievable," Khan said at a brief news conference after the meeting. "It is the American dream."
On the pride of being the first minority owner, Khan said, "There is pride, but quite frankly, this is America. It can only happen here. I leave it for the pundits and other people really to decide. What I want to do is obviously be successful in Jacksonville."
He takes over a team that has won just one playoff game since 1999. Assuming he is approved, the deal will close Jan. 4, so he will have a role in selecting the next head coach.
Jaguars fans have embraced his ownership, and many were wearing mustaches in his honor at the home game Monday night against San Diego.
"I am surprised. Obviously, I have to tell you, it was the best looking group of fans I have ever seen at a game," he said with a laugh. "They looked beautiful. I was really surprised. It was wonderful," he said.
He arrived at the meeting only with Joe Leccese, chairman of global law firm Proskauer. Khan attended the meeting itself without any representation.
Khan, 61, came to the United States to attend the University of Illinois at age 16, got his first job washing dishes at $1.20 an hour, received an engineering degree from the University of Illinois and built a billion dollar auto parts business.
The committee members were already familiar with Khan's background because of his pursuit of the St. Louis Rams last year, which ended when owner Stan Kroenke, who owned part of the team and had first refusal rights, decided to match Khan's offer.
The transaction with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver had been under review by the league before the announcement of the sale last week.
The Finance Committee has 10 members, including Weaver. The other nine are Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Bud Adams of the Tennessee Titans, Tom Benson of the New Orleans Saints, Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons, Joel Grazer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jeff Lurie of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Benson, and Adams were on a speaker phone and the others attended the meeting, voting 9-0 to approve the sale. Weaver recused himself from the vote.
Weaver said there were four or five other ownership issues on the agenda besides the Khan purchase.
"I'm really optimistic that we are going to get this thing done and you are going to have a great new owner," Weaver said.
Khan said, "It is absolutely a pleasure for me to be here. It is a night that I am going to remember for a long, long time."
He was asked about the fans' comfort in the future of the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
"Let me just say, let them wait until next week. They will be very comfortable next week [after the sale is formally approved]," Khan said. "Hopefully, if the vote goes the way we are expecting, I will be happy to elaborate on it. …