• Mohamed Al Fayed sells club after 16 years
• Deal with US tycoon worth around £200m
Mohamed Al Fayed has brought his colourful 16-year association with Fulham to an end after sanctioning the sale of the Premier League club to the United States-based billionaire Shahid Khan.
The deal was formally announced on Friday night and Fayed will give a photo call at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon, with the deal, which has been sanctioned by the Premier League, understood to be worth up to £200m. That would effectively match the amount loaned to the London club by the Egyptian businessman since he bought them as a third-tier side in 1997.
Khan is the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars American Football franchise, which he purchased in 2011, having made his estimated £1.7bn fortune in the manufacture of car parts. The 62-year-old, who will become the sixth American owner of a Premier League club, has been actively seeking to promote the Jaguars in the UK, with their potential relocation to London having even been mooted in the US.
The NFL side have already signed a deal to play four of their "home" games at Wembley over the next four years – starting with a match against the San Francisco 49ers in October – with Khan having described London as the "missing piece" for a club who do not sell out all their home games at their base in north Florida. While the purchase of Fulham is not overtly connected to that ambition, it would allow Khan to promote both brands in tandem on either side of the Atlantic.
"My time of serving as the custodian of Fulham Football Club would one day come to an end, and I feel that time has now arrived," Fayed said. "The time is right because I have found a very good man in Shahid Khan to accept the responsibility and privilege that I have enjoyed at Fulham since 1997. Fulham will be in very good hands with Shahid, whose success in business and passion for sport is very evident. I ask everyone who loves Fulham and our Craven Cottage home to welcome Shahid as he begins his journey as the next guardian of Fulham Football Club."
Khan said in a statement: "I was recently very fortunate to have been introduced to Mohamed Al Fayed, a man I respect and admire immensely for what he has accomplished in his life and – above all – what he has given others. Today he is giving me the privilege and responsibility of serving as the next custodian of Fulham Football Club. I am extremely honoured to accept and want to thank him, on behalf of everyone who loves Fulham, for 16 years of exceptional service to the club. Mr Al Fayed rescued the club in its hour of need and has led it to a sustained place within the Premier League.
"Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me. 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 programmes as fundamentally important elements of Fulham's future."
Negotiations over the purchase of Fulham have taken place over recent months, with buyers undoubtedly attracted by Al Fayed's decision to convert his loans into equity in January, effectively rendering the club debt-free. It is believed the deal was smoothed by the football financier Keith Harris, who has previously been significant in the sale of numerous top-flight clubs, including Aston Villa to Randy Lerner and Manchester City to Thaksin Shinawatra.
Khan, who was born in Pakistan before moving to the US at the age of 16, was ranked by Forbes in the world's richest 500 people last year and could potentially offer Fulham significantly more clout in the transfer market in the short-term. Al Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar Holdings for £1.5bn three years ago and, at 84, has been reining in his spending on his various assets.
He had hoped Fulham, a £6.25m purchase, might be self-sustaining over the past three seasons despite continuing to invest in the development of the stadium, with his outlay on players in that time minimal. Two of the manager Martin Jol's signings to date this summer – Derek Boateng and Fernando Amorebieta – had arrived under the Bosman ruling with the only fee paid to Roma for Maarten Stekelenburg, though Khan is likely to seek to deliver a statement of intent between now and the transfer deadline on 2 September.
Fayed's ownership will be considered glowingly by the vast majority of Fulham's supporters, the club having risen from the third tier to the Premier League to enjoy arguably the most consistently successful period in their history. They reached the Europa League final in 2010 under Roy Hodgson, and are established in an ultra-competitive top-flight. The forthcoming campaign will be their 13th in succession in the division.