Mohamed Al Fayed has ended his 16-year stint as Fulham owner by selling the club to Shahid Khan, owner of NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars.
Khan, 62, a billionaire car-parts entrepreneur, is the sixth American owner of a Premier League club. During his time in charge, Egyptian Al Fayed, 84, took Fulham from the third tier to the top flight and into Europe.
“It has been a pleasure and privilege to be chairman of Fulham football club for 16 memorable years,” he said.
Financial details of the takeover have yet to be officially disclosed, with media reports valuing the deal at between £150m and £200m.
A leading supporters group said the news represented an “exciting but uncertain time” for Fulham, who finished last season 12th in the league.
Pakistan-born Khan, who moved to the United States aged 16, employs thousands of people through his car parts business.
“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,” he said.
“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.” Khan bought Jacksonville Jaguars in December 2011, but they struggled last season, finishing bottom of AFC South with two wins from 14 matches.
The Jaguars are scheduled to play one regular-season NFL ‘home’ game at Wembley each year from 2013 to 2016, starting in October against the San Francisco 49ers.
In a statement Al Fayed called Khan “a living embodiment of the American success story” and said they met twice before completing the deal.
“I am now delighted to be passing this great and historic club into the care and stewardship of an outstanding man who has already achieved much in his life and will, I am sure, take Fulham on to even greater things,” said the former Harrods owner.
Al Fayed bought Fulham for a reported £30m in 1997 and provided the funds which helped the Cottagers’ rise from the third tier of English football to the Premier League.
“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.”
In arguably the club’s most successful ever period, he guided Fulham to their third promotion in five seasons in 2000-01, giving Fulham top-flight status for the first time since 1968.
The 2013-14 season will be their 13th successive Premier League campaign, making them one of the division’s longest-serving teams.
Fulham also reached the final of the Europa League in May 2010, losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid. The Fulham Supporters’ Trust said the club enjoyed “wonderful progression” under Al Fayed and fans extended “heartfelt thanks” to him.
“The change of ownership presents an exciting, if uncertain time, for Fulham fans, but the trust feels it is important to recognise the immeasurable contribution our outgoing chairman has made to the history of our great club,” it said.