A magnate in the automotive parts industry, Khan was familiar with Jacksonville long before purchasing the team. Jacksonville’s port at one time was the United States’ largest for automobile shipments, and Khan’s fledgling business brought him to Jacksonville’s Blount Island terminal to install his patented bumpers on the import vehicles.
Khan’s passion for the National Football League also took root long before his entry into the league. His dream of one day owning an NFL team began while watching games with his fraternity brothers in the basement of the Beta Theta Pi house as a student at the University of Illinois. Through the success of his own business, his dream came true 40 years later.
Khan is president and owner of Flex-N-Gate Corporation, the 14th-largest North American automotive supplier, employing more than 16,000 people at 52 manufacturing and nine product development and engineering facilities throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. Flex-N-Gate’s major product lines include complete bumper assemblies, mechanical assemblies, exterior plastic trim, and complex welded structural assemblies for the light vehicle market.
Khan’s history with Flex-N-Gate started in 1970, when he began working at the company while he was an engineering student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Mr. Khan came from his native Pakistan in 1967 at the age of 16 to attend college. When he graduated in 1971, with a B.S. in industrial engineering, he became Flex-N-Gate’s engineering manager. In 1978, Khan left Flex-N-Gate and with $13,000 in savings and a $50,000 loan from the Small Business Loan Corporation, he created the start-up Bumper Works, which revolutionized the industry through an innovative one-piece bumper design—a lightweight, continuous piece of metal with no seams to rust or corrode. His innovative design is still considered the industry standard for all seamless steel bumpers worldwide.
Bumper Works embodied two of Mr. Khan’s many strengths—a deep understanding of design and a strong entrepreneurial streak. When Flex-N-Gate came on the market two short years later, Khan purchased his former employer and brought Bumper Works into the fold. During the decade that followed, Flex-N-Gate transitioned from an aftermarket parts producer to an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Needing to expand his client base, Khan made sales calls for over five years to all the Japanese auto manufacturers, who, at the time, were more open to new ideas and working with smaller suppliers. This dogged determination resulted in Flex-N-Gate acquiring contracts for all the Japanese-produced trucks imported into the U.S. By the late 1980s Toyota had selected the Bumper Works facility to be the first American parts supplier to receive Toyota’s lean manufacturing training—an event Khan identifies as having a profound effect on Flex-N-Gate’s ability to grow and prosper.
Widely recognized for his vision, acumen and leadership, Khan has grown Flex-N-Gate both horizontally and vertically through integration of processes and commodities. From the company’s modest beginning with only the ability to stamp and weld the bumper shell, Flex-N-Gate has continually expanded to bring all the necessary processes in-house. This carefully planned expansion reduced costs and improved control, consistently making Flex-N-Gate more competitive in the industry. By leveraging what he learned working directly with automotive customers, Khan grew the company by purchasing other OEM facilities, expanding into different commodity types and broadening his client base.
Today, Flex-N-Gate has a global footprint reaching from Canada to Argentina and from the United States into Europe and Asia. The company’s clients include all of the major automotive manufacturers in North America, Japan and Europe. In 2007 Mr. Khan received the Minority Business Leadership Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council and Automotive News ranked Flex-N-Gate the 14th largest North American automotive supplier for 2010. When asked about Flex-N-Gate’s remarkable success, Khan is quick to humbly note that he is proof that the American dream is still alive and attainable.
In addition to success in the automotive arena, Khan has expanded on his interests in biofuels and structural engineering. With Bio-Alternative, LLC, Khan has brought together a team of industry leaders around the philosophy of biodiesel being an efficient, affordable, and sustainable energy alternative that should be widely and easily accessible. From refinery construction and catalyst sales, to site planning and business consultation, Bio-Alternative continually engages in extensive and ongoing research and development initiatives that ensure the company is always taking the next step in energy to provide customers with the tools necessary to maximize the benefits and values of biodiesel.
Shad Khan’s deep interest in developing engineering solutions to global infrastructure problems led him to start Smart Structures, which advances the technology of bridge monitoring, also known as structural health monitoring (SHM). The primary objective of a successful SHM program is to save or defer money for a bridge owner by using technology to assist in their bridge maintenance programs. Smart Structures has emerged as a technical leader in providing cost-effective bridge management packages.
In 2013, Khan complemented his sports club portfolio with his purchase of the London-based Fulham Football Club. As chairman of Fulham, Khan became the only person in the world to own 100 percent of both an NFL club and a Barclays Premier League team. Fulham will play in the Sky Bet Championship division of The Football League in 2014-2015.
Since early 2012 Shad and Ann Khan have focused their philanthropic giving in the Jacksonville community through the Jaguars Foundation. Through the Foundation they provided more than $1 million in grants in 2012 and $1.6 million in 2013 to children’s and family programs, as well as other NFL and team-related initiatives. The Foundation also donates more than 11,000 charitable tickets with an in-kind value of nearly $500,000 annually. The Khans’ charitable initiatives include a $1 million commitment to the City of Jacksonville’s Veterans Resource and Reintegration Center, as a partner in the mayor’s initiative to military service members transitioning back to civilian life. The Khans also made a six-figure challenge matching grant to the North Florida Boy Scouts, contributions to fund the NFL/Jaguars Play 60 program in partnership with Baptist Health, and grants to support community improvements. Khan also supported the One Spark event in Jacksonville in April 2014 with his second consecutive $1 million pledge to support creativity and innovation.
Mr. Khan has served as an active member on many University of Illinois boards, including the Engineering Board of Visitors; Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Alumni Board; MechSE Extern Program; University of Illinois Foundation Board of Directors; and the Presidents Council, and was inducted into the Engineering at Illinois Hall of Fame in 2010. Mr. Khan is the current president of the Chief Executives Organization, a global community of the top 2,000 leaders in the business, government, and non-profit sectors. He also currently serves on three NFL committees: the Finance Committee, Investment Committee and the NFL Foundation.
Along with his wife, fellow University of Illinois alum Ann Carlson Khan, the Khans’ gifts to the University of Illinois have enriched the university and community through donations to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the University Library; the College of Business; and the College of Applied Health Sciences, where they have funded five endowed Khan Professorships and the Khan Annex—a 24,000 square foot facility with state-of-the-art laboratories, instructional, and professional collaboration spaces. The Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on the University of Illinois campus will hosted the 2013 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships.
In 2007 the Khan Foundation was formed to expand research in the Applied Health Sciences, with Mrs. Khan serving as the foundation’s president. Since its inception, the Foundation has given out more than five million dollars in grants nationwide—to libraries; organizations such as Crisis Nursery and the YMCA; and to UCLA for pediatric non-embryonic stem cell research. In 2011 Mr. Khan became a Lincoln Laureate, the state’s highest award for achievement given by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, for his philanthropic work in the state.
Mr. Khan shares his passion for the American dream with his family. The Khans have passed on their commitment to work and service to their two grown children, Shanna and Tony Khan. Tony is the Jaguars’ senior vice president, football technology and analytics.
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