Fulham poised to become sixth US owned club

Frank Dalleres
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ENGLISH football’s links with American sports look set to be strengthened this week, with Fulham the next Premier League club expected to be snapped up by a US sports franchise owner.

Cottagers owner Mohammed Al Fayed is believed to be close to selling the west London outfit after 16 years to Shahid Khan, who also owns American football team the Jacksonville Jaguars, for more than £150m.

His arrival would follow that of fellow NFL owners the Glazer family, Stan Kroenke, Fenway Sports Group and Randy Lerner, who have controlling stakes in Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa respectively.

Sunderland are also American owned, by Texan Ellis Short, while Manchester City earlier this year put down roots in the US by buying a Major League Soccer franchise, New York City FC, which is set to launch in 2015.

Pakistan-born Khan, 62, is estimated to be worth around £2bn and owns automotive parts company Flex-N-Gate, having made his fortune with an innovative bumper design after studying at an American university.

The Florida resident bought Jacksonville Jaguars in January 2012 for $770m (£515m) in cash, having made his interest in purchasing an NFL franchise known several years previously.

Khan has spoken of his affinity with Britain, having attended Premier League matches and signed the Jaguars up to play one match per season at Wembley Stadium for the next four years.

Fayed, 84, has spent £200m on achieving his aim of firmly establishing Fulham as a top flight club, having bought them for £6.25m in 1997, when they were languishing in the second tier.

The Egyptian converted around £200m of loans to the club into equity earlier this year, a move said to have precipitated the search for a buyer. Fulham declined to comment on a possible sale.