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Rams will be sold to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan
Shahid Khan
Shahid Khan (Courtesy of University of Illinois Athletic Dept.)

Rams owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez have entered into a signed agreement to sell the team to Shahid Khan, multiple NFL sources told the Post-Dispatch late Wednesday night.

Khan, 55, is the president of Flex-N-Gate Corp., an auto-parts manufacturer based in Urbana, Ill. Khan has lived in the Champaign-Urbana area for more than 40 years and is married with two adult children. Khan is a graduate of the School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois.

According to league sources, Khan will purchase the 60 percent of the team owned by siblings Rosenbloom and Rodriguez, who inherited the franchise from their late mother, Georgia Frontiere, in early 2008. NFL owners must approve the sale.

The Rams owners and Khan won't close on the deal until sometime next month.

Stan Kroenke owns the 40 percent remaining, and it's unclear if Kroenke plans to retain his share. If Kroenke wants to be bought out, sources say Khan is likely to do so, and that would make him the 100 percent owner.

Kroenke also has the right of first refusal to buy the Rosenbloom-Rodriguez 60 percent, but current NFL rules barring cross ownership prevent Kroenke from taking over as the team's majority owner. Kroenke owns the Denver Nuggets in the NBA and the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL. To buy a controlling interest, Kroenke would have to persuade the NFL to change its ownership rules.

Multiple league sources describe Khan as an enthusiastic Rams fan who has attended home games at the Edward Jones Dome. League sources say Khan is committed to keeping the team in St. Louis — and that was an important consideration to Rosenbloom and Rodriguez in making their decision to sell to him.

The Rams will probably be able to vacate their lease agreement after the 2014 season, but sources say Khan is willing to work with local leaders in an effort to assure the team's long-term future in St. Louis. A source noted Khan's deep and stable roots in central Illinois as a sign that he wants to own an NFL franchise in St. Louis — and in no other market.

Moreover, Khan is said to have special feelings for St. Louis because he arrived in St. Louis early in his life when his parents moved to the United States from Pakistan.

Khan began working for Flex-N-Gate in 1970 and has owned the company since 1980. Under Khan's direction, Flex-N-Gate's revenue has increased to more than $2 billion. The company manufactures metal and plastic automotive components and assemblies, such as bumpers, grilles, hinges, interior panels and pillars, latches, pedal systems, parking brakes and running boards for a wide range of customers in the automobile industry including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo. Flex-N-Gate has more than 50 manufacturing and engineering facilities in the U.S., Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

Khan received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Illinois in 1999 and has served on multiple boards at Illinois.

One concern is Khan's ongoing dispute with the IRS over prior income-tax obligations.

Sources say Khan's dispute is unlikely to be a major issue in the sale, pointing out that Khan was thoroughly vetted by the Goldman-Sachs investment broker, which conducted background checks on potential buyers before submitting acceptable applicants to Rosenbloom and Rodriguez. Rams owners hired Goldman-Sachs to screen potential candidates.

Rosenbloom and Rodriguez entertained several other offers for the Rams, including one from a group led by Blues Chairman Dave Checketts.

Rosenbloom declined to comment Wednesday when reached via text message.

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Shahid Khan

Business: Owner of Flex-N-Gate Corp., an auto-parts manufacturer based in Urbana, Ill., with $2 billion in annual revenue.

Education: University of Illinois, graduate of the School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Personal: Khan, 55, is married with two adult children.

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