Al Fayed sells soccer's Fulham to billionaire N.F.L. owner Khan

Mohamed Al Fayed, who sold Fulham on Friday, stands near a statue of Michael Jackson outside Fulham's stadium in 2011.

Story highlights

  • Mohamed Al Fayed sells soccer's Fulham to billionaire N.F.L. owner Shahid Khan
  • Although the selling price wasn't revealed, reports suggest it was around $230 million
  • The Cottagers cemented their place in England's top division under Al Fayed
  • Khan moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 and turned himself into one of the world's richest men

Fulham became the sixth soccer team in England's Premier League to fall into U.S. ownership when the charismatic Mohamed Al Fayed sold the club to billionaire and N.F.L. owner Shahid Khan.

The deal, which had been in the works, was confirmed on Fulham's website Friday. The selling price wasn't disclosed, although several British media outlets reported it was upwards of $225 million.

Fulham said Khan assumes full ownership of the Cottagers, "debt-free, as of today."

"It has been a pleasure and privilege to be the Chairman of Fulham Football Club for 16 memorable years," Al Fayed, 84, told Fulham's website. "I am now delighted to be passing this great and historic Club into the care and stewardship of an outstanding man who has already achieved much in his life and will, I am sure, take Fulham on to even greater things.

"By his hard work, vision and determination, Shahid Khan has become a living embodiment of the American success story. His achievements speak for themselves.

"I met him twice prior to our successful transaction this week and have been very favorably impressed."

Al Fayed bought Fulham in 1997 for roughly $9 million and proceeded to pump around $300 million into the club based in southwest London, not far from Harrods -- the luxurious and iconic London department store Al Fayed owned before selling it to Qatar Holdings for a reported $2.3 billion in 2010.

Read: Al Fayed sells Harrods

While never challenging for the Premier League title, Fulham cemented its spot in the world's most watched league after winning promotion from the second tier in 2001 and even reached the Europa League final in 2010.

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Training facilities improved, Craven Cottage was revamped and Fulham has permission to increase the capacity of the ground to 30,000.

It was during his stint with Fulham, though, that Al Fayed suffered heartbreak, losing his son, Dodi, in the car crash that also killed Princess Diana in Paris in 1997.

Al Fayed never shied away from doing things his own way.

He commissioned a statue of Michael Jackson -- his friend -- after the singer died in 2009 and put it outside Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium that sits on the banks of the River Thames.

Some fans didn't like it but Al Fayed didn't care.

Read: Al Fayed defends Jackson statue

He now plans to spend more time with his grandchildren in retirement.

"I am sad but proud of our achievements," said Al Fayed. "I am very grateful to Fulham's fans, the most incredible fans in the world. They have given me their support and affection whenever they have seen me at home games.

"I would never let them down. I have passed the Club to a talented, honest and highly capable man who respects Fulham and its traditions. He is a great sportsman."

The Pakistan-born Khan, according to Forbes, was worth $2.9 billion as of last March.

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He moved to the U.S. from Pakistan at the age of 16 to study at the University of Illinois, became a U.S. citizen and turned himself into one of the world's richest men.

Forbes reported that his company, automotive parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate, generated sales of $3.9 billion in 2012.

Khan bought the Jacksonville Jaguars two years ago and the Jaguars will contest a game in London for the next four seasons.

U.S. owners have had spotty records in the Premier League -- think George Gillett and Tom Hicks at Liverpool -- so Fulham fans can only hope for the best.

Other Premier League teams currently owned by Americans are Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool, with the latter now in the hands of John Henry.

Read: Henry seals Liverpool takeover

"Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me," Khan, in his early 60s, told Fulham's website. "I want to be clear, I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans.

"My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future that fans of present and future generations can be proud of.

"We will manage the club's financial and operational affairs with prudence and care, with youth development and community programs as fundamentally important elements of Fulham's future."

Fulham's first league game of the new season under Khan is an away trip to Sunderland on August 17.

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