After many years, the story of Shahid “Shad” Khan continues to resonate as one of the best immigrant-to-American-Dream stories. In the latest issue of Forbes magazine, Khan was featured in their story, “6 Immigrant Stories That Will Make You Believe In The American Dream Again”. I’ve included the excerpt below, but you should read the whole story for yourself.
The very act of immigrating, exemplified by Peterffy, is entrepreneurial, a self-selected risk taken in an effort to better one’s circumstances. It’s a mind-set. “You leave everything you have and get on a plane,” says Forbes 400 member Shahid Khan. “You can handle change. You can handle risk. And you want to prove yourself.”
For Shahid Khan, a Pakistani, the logical place to immigrate was the United Kingdom, “but the U.S. was always the promised land for me.” In January 1967 Khan landed at JFK, his generation’s Ellis Island. His connecting flight to Chicago was diverted by a snowstorm, so the 16-year-old flew to St. Louis instead and took a bus to Champaign, to the University of Illinois, where he was enrolled as an undergraduate. He had $500 in his pocket. Khan got a job working as a dishwasher at night after school for $1.20 an hour. “I was overjoyed. You just couldn’t get a job like that where I came from,” he says. “My immediate thought was, Wow, I can work. I can be my own man. I control my destiny.”
Khan eventually got a job as an engineering manager at Flex-N-Gate, an automotive manufacturer. A few years later, with $16,000 in savings and a Small Business Administration loan, he started his own company, which made bumpers for car manufacturers. He eventually bought out his old boss at Flex-N-Gate. His company now has $6.1 billion in revenues and employs around 12,000 people in the U.S.
A plant he’s building in Detroit will employ up to 1,000 workers who will be paid $25 an hour. Khan is worth an estimated $6.9 billion.
He still immigrated to the U.K. in a small way: He bought the English Fulham soccer team. But lest anyone challenge his preference, he also owns that most American of billionaire assets: a National Football League franchise–the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Top photo by Michael Prince for Forbes.