EXCLUSIVE: Jacksonville Jaguars billionaire who wants to buy Wembley made his fortune thanks to our father but didn’t even send a card to his funeral, say family of bumper business founder
- Shahid Khan, nicknamed the Tash with the Cash, owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise and is reportedly bidding to buy Wembley Stadium in London
- Pakistan-born Khan, 67, owes his fortune to Flex-N-Gate which makes the one-piece bumpers found on one out of every five cars in North America
- He came from his native Lahore to study at the University of Illinois and worked as a $2-an-hour dishwasher while at college
- Farming entrepreneur Charles Gleason Butzow went back to his old college to find a chief engineer for his family and employed Khan
- Khan became his ‘second son’ and stayed with company when Butzow sold it and retired and eventually raised enough money to buy it himself in 1980
- But Butzow’s son Drew, 78, tells DailyMail.com that Khan turned his back on the family and adopted an ‘aggressive’ new business persona
- He did not even attend Butzow’s funeral when he died in 2005 aged 90 says his son, who said: ‘All it would have taken was one phone call when dad died.’
- DailyMail.com has reached out to Khan for comment
With his rakish mustache and rags to riches story, prospective Wembley Stadium buyer Shahid Khan has been hailed the embodiment of the American dream; a humble immigrant who went from washing dishes for $1.20 an hour to splashing $770m on an NFL franchise.
But the flamboyant owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise in Florida and Fulham FC, the London soccer team, is not as fondly remembered by the Illinois family who founded the manufacturing business that made 67-year-old Khan a multi-billionaire, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Khan was a hard-up student at the University of Illinois in the 1970s when farming entrepreneur Charles Gleason Butzow spotted his potential and offered him the lofty position of chief engineer for his thriving truck parts firm Flex-N-Gate.
The two men forged a close bond, toiling day and night together to develop the products that would eventually see Flex-N-Gate making bumpers for one in every five trucks and SUVs in North America while turning over a staggering $6b a year.
Butzow eventually sold up and retired but was delighted when the young protégé he treated like a ‘second son’ raised enough money to buy it from interim owners Scott & Fetzer in 1980.
However his son Drew Butzow, 78, has told DailyMail.com how Khan turned his back on his former mentor as he adopted an ‘aggressive’ new business persona and turned the company into a global empire.
Tycoon: Shahid Khan owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise thanks to the fortune he made through bumper manufacturer Flex-N-Gate – but now the family which founded the firm and put him on the path to riches tell DailyMail.com he turned his back on them
Transformative: The one piece bumper now found on one in five cars in North America is the key to Shahid Khan’s fortune. In 1976 he was working for Flex-N-Gate as chief engineer
Real founder: Charles Gleason Butzow founded Flex-N-Gate, recruited Shahid Khan as its chief engineer. Butzow’s son tells DailyMail.com however that the billionaire did not even send a card when his mentor died and feels the family is owed an apology
Drew says Pakistani-born Khan – now the 217th richest person in the world – failed to attend his father’s funeral or send his condolences when he passed away aged 90 in October 2005.
His family want an apology for the painful snub and more recognition for the part Butzow played in Khan’s remarkable rise.
‘Dad treated Shahid like a second son. He really did have a great affection for him. At times he saw more of Shahid than he did us,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘The problem I have got with Shahid Khan is that when my father passed away I never got a phone call. I never got a card, he never visited my dad’s funeral.
‘Maybe he was just too busy, I don’t know. But that has always stuck with me over the years, that Shahid did not come and acknowledge my father, because my father was very good to him.
‘If he had not gone to the University of Illinois and got a start with my dad, where would he be today?’
Khan made headlines across the UK last week following his audacious $1b bid to buy Wembley Stadium, the storied ‘home’ of soccer where the English national team plays and its biggest domestic cup games are held.
The tycoon already has a deal in place to play one Jaguars game a season at the 90,000-seat venue in north London, which was rebuild at a cost of just over a billion dollars and reopened in 2007.
But sealing a deal for the crown jewels of British sport would be an astonishing coup for dad-of-two Khan who moved to the US at age 16 with just $500 to his name. Khan was born in Pakistan’s second city of Lahore in July 1950.
His mother Zakia was a math professor while his frugal, hard-working father Rafiq sold surveying equipment.
Their son’s nous for business was evident at a young age when he rented out his comic books to classmates and sold second-hand radios.
At 16 Khan moved to the United States to study mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, a two-hour drive south of Chicago.
Incredible wealth: Shahid Khan owns the 340ft Kismet – meaning fate – as the most visible personal sign of his fortune.
In the big time: Owning the Jacksonville Jaguars makes Khan part of a tiny elite club and owning Wembley would mean the NFL franchise having a permanent base in London, where they have played before, including in 2016
Another trophy: Khan, nicknamed the tash with the cash, bought Fulham Football Club in London in 2013. He now wants to make the more ambitious move to own Wembley Stadium, the home of English soccer
$1 billion deal: Wembley Stadium in north-west London is the long-time home of English soccer’s most prestigious events and control of it would allow Khan to step up the NFL’s presence in the UK, where it already holds regular games
He spent his first night in a $2-a-night room at the YMCA before getting up the next morning to land his first job washing dishes for $1.20 an hour.
Khan’s destiny would soon change however when former student Butzow returned to his alma mater in search of an engineer for his thriving vehicle parts firm, Flex-N-Gate.
The company was enjoying rapid growth with its groundbreaking design for the world’s first one-piece truck bumper. Khan’s professors said the hardworking Muslim student was the perfect candidate.
Drew remembers him as quiet, geeky but a prodigious worker, excelling as the company’s sole engineer.
‘We were just an old farming family who had an idea. We were growing pretty fast, dad was looking for an engineer,’ explained Drew.
‘He went over to the university and talked to a professor over there and asked him to point out someone who could do the job. That’s how Shahid came to work for us, fresh out of school.
‘He was very hard working, very determined. He was a very reserved young man but I think he came out of his shell eventually.
‘You could tell Shahid would become very successful, you had that feeling about him.
Personal life: Shahid Khan married Ann Carlson. his college sweetheart. The couple have two children, daughter Shanna, and son Tony, who is involved in his father’s businesses
Lavish style: The living room of Khans’ $8m penthouse in Park Tower, Chicago. The apartment is his and his wife’s main home, but they also have an even larger 14,000 sq ft penthouse in Naples, Florida valued at $9m, a sprawling five-bedroom mansion in Snowmass Village, Colorado worth nearly $7m, and a spacious $1.4m family home in Champaign, Illinois.
Star attraction: The Khans’ Chicago apartment is filled with lavish artwork including Renoir’s Portrait of Pierre Renoir in a Sailor Suit’
Family: Khan’s two children are daughter Shanna, who married to Justin McCabe in a lavish ceremony at The Plaza in New York and Tony, who is involved in his businesses
‘He might even have had a mustache back then – but not to the extent he has now.’
Butzow’s involvement with Flex-N-Gate ended in 1973 when he sold it to the Cleveland, Ohio-based Scott and Fetzer Company. Khan, however, agreed to stay on.
He would eventually leave the company in 1977 when he became embroiled in a dispute over trade secrets after starting a rival outfit, Bumper Works, the following year.
The case went all the way to the Appellate Court of Illinois Fourth District but Khan fought off an injunction and would eventually end up acquiring Flex-N-Gate himself several years later for $800,000.
A decade on, it was the sole supplier of one-piece bumpers for Toyota. And by 2012 Flex-N-Gate bumpers were fitted to two-thirds of all the cars and trucks sold in the United States.
By then Khan had virtually broken off all contact with his former mentor, according to Drew.
‘When Shahid got a lot of money behind him he became a different person,’ he said.
‘He became very aggressive in the business world. I don’t believe my dad had much contact with Shahid after that, if any at all.
‘There were times when my dad would go and hear him speak at the University at Illinois.
‘He knew Shahid was busy building the business. I think he still had a lot of admiration and respect for him.
‘By the time my dad died Shahid has parlayed Flex-N-Gate into a real profit making company and dad was proud of that. He felt like he had been a little part of that.’
According to Forbes, Flex-N-Gate now has 62 plants worldwide and over 24,000 employees and Khan – dubbed the ‘stache with the cash’ – is worth $7.1 billion.
He and his 68-year-old wife Ann Carlson Khan, his college sweetheart whom he met in 1977, enjoy the sort of gilded lifestyle befitting his huge wealth.
Their main home is a $8.3m, 9,000 sq ft penthouse on the 61st floor of Chicago’s exclusive Park Tower which boats a spa modeled on Roman baths from the ancient Italian city of Pompeii.
Among the art on the walls is Renior’s Portrait of Pierre Renoir in a Sailor Suit.
The 54ft reception room was large enough to host 140 guests for his daughter Shanna’s engagement party. The wedding was at The Plaza in New York.
The Khans have an even larger 14,000 sq ft penthouse in Naples, Florida valued at $9m, a sprawling five-bedroom mansion in Snowmass Village, Colorado worth nearly $7m, and a spacious $1.4m family home in Champaign, Illinois.
Then there’s the four private jets registered to Flex-N-Gate, a fleet of supercars cars including a bespoke $9.5m Lamborghini Veneno and the incredible $200m superyacht Khan had built in 2004.
The opulent 312-ft vessel named Kismet – meaning fate in a word derived from Turkish and ultimately Arabic – has a helipad, movie theater, pool, spa and working fireplace.
Khan came under scrutiny from the IRS in 2007 for his links to a convicted accountant who created bogus tax shelters for well-heeled clients.
Motown booster: Shahid Khan is building a Flex-N-Gate manufacturing facility in Detroit, and was at a ground-breaking ceremony for it in April last yea presided over by Mike Duggan, the city’s mayor
Expansion: Shahid Khan’s Flex-N-Gate is building in Detroit, but he already has 24,000 employees in 64 manufacturing facilities and nine engineering development sites both at home in the U.S. and abroad in China, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico and Canada
It was alleged that the automotive parts mogul poured $250m into five ‘potentially abusive tax shelters’ between 1999 and 2003, reducing his income tax liability by approximately $85m.
However Khan was never accused of any criminal conduct himself and he later said he had paid back the disputed taxes.
The allegation did not prevent him from making his splashiest purchase to date in 2011 when he bought the Jaguars for $770m.
They have since recorded their first winning season as well as reaching the play-offs for the first time in a decade.
Khan says he has no plans to move his Jacksonville franchise full time to London and will respect the historical soccer traditions of Wembley if his bid succeeds.
He already own a British soccer team having snapped up second-tier outfit Fulham FC for an estimated $200m in 2013 who are close to getting promotion to the English Premier League.
The mustachioed businessman is also known for his philanthropy and in 2011 donated $10m to the University of Illinois.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Khan for comment.
Drew Butzow thinks Khan has the Midas touch when it comes to business and will likely make a great success of his Wembley plans – he’s just sad he hasn’t given enough credit to his dad down the years.
‘Shahid must really be into the soccer thing,’ he said. ‘It surprised me when he bought a team because there was very little soccer back then in Illinois. Even high schools only are just starting soccer programs.
‘Shahid has got a lot of good qualities. He’s donated a lot of money. My wife and I were thinking about joining the Urbana Country Club but there’s only one drawback – Shahid Khan is the owner.
‘We are not the sort of people to get upset easily. But I don’t think Shahid Khan treated my family right. All it would have taken was one phone call when dad died.’
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