A business turnaround too far - CNBC Africa

A business turnaround too far


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When Shahid Khan, born in Pakistan bought my football club, Fulham, that academy of ball artists next to the River Thames, for 300 million dollars, in July, I was pleased.

This was a turnaround specialist who had revived dying auto parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate; a man who was busy turning around ailing NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars.

This was also a man who appeared on the cover of FORBES with the story of his turnaround exploits; by-they-way made 4.1 billion dollars along the way.  Khan spent 770 million dollars on the Jaguars, so he must have a passion for sport, I thought. 

When Fulham won its first game away, a tricky trip to Sunderland, I was ecstatic thought, Europe next season. Think again, my club is going down as sure a night follows day.  Fifteen games without a win says it all, our days in the top flight are over. Thirteen glorious years, in which, well, we got to the UEFA Cup final and avoided relegation a number of times.

What a pity for a club that has hosted so many talented Africa players: Senegal’s world cup star. Papa Bouba Diop, who could crack a goalpost in two from the half way line: John Pantsil, the rampaging wing back from Ghana; Dickson Etuhu, the pride of Kano in northern Nigeria; and Kagiso Dikgacoi of South Africa. Sadly, Dakgacoi didn’t last long and would have probably done a lot better if he hadn’t been sent off in his first five minutes in a Fulham shirt for head-butting a defender.

All in all, these names and memories mean little now as Fulham faces the abyss. As the cheap comedians will be saying soon: “What has Fulham and a second rate pantomime artist got in common…they will both be playing before small crowds by the sea in Blackpool next Christmas.”

My point is, Khan says he is a turnaround artist. The job of saving Fulham from the depths of games against Doncaster and Leyton Orient will show how much of a turnaround specialist he is.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan added a soccer team to his holdings in 2013, snapping up struggling Premier League club Fulham for 300 million dollars last July. The purchase came a year and a half after the auto parts entrepreneur snagged the NFL's Jaguars for 770 million dollars.

In 2013 the Jaguars endured their fifth losing season in the last six years under new head coach Gus Bradley. But Khan's auto parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate powers ahead, with more than 4.4 billion dollars in revenues last year. The Pakistan-born Khan immigrated to the US for college at age 16 and earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois.

Afterward he designed a revolutionary one-piece truck bumper that saved weight while adding structural support.