Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has been unequivocal regarding his desire to keep the team in Jacksonville. He has adopted the city as a home away from home. He has spent on free agents and he plans to spend on improving the team’s facilities. He has donated $1 million to a veteran’s guidance center.
And he’s now embroiled in a full-blown fight with City officials.
In a May 30 letter to Mayor Alvin Brown, obtained by the Jacksonville Business Journal, Khan accuses the City of violating the lease agreement that allows the franchise to play at Everbank Field.
The dispute arises from the fairly mundane task of hiring a manager for the facility. Khan contends that Section 2.5(E) of the lease requires the Jaguars to, upon reviewing the submitted proposals, make a recommendation to Jacksonville. City officials then will evaluate the proposals after the Jaguars make the recommendation. (The City apparently believes that the two parties must converse about the situation before any recommendations are made.)
Khan explains that the Jaguars made their recommendation, and that a lawyer representing Jacksonville then sent the team a letter declaring the franchise to be in default, and “putting in motion a termination of our lease.”
As we said, “Uh. Oh.”
“The action of sending the default letter is unprecedented,” Khan writes. “The default mechanism of the lease has not been implemented in the 18 years the lease has been in effect. While we certainly take the default claim seriously, the only response we can make to your letter is to cure the claimed default. However, it is not possible to cure as we are in full compliance with the lease.
“Mayor, I hope you can understand that I am shocked and perplexed at the City’s actions. I am at a loss to understand the purpose of this drastic and unprecedented action. I am hopeful that the letter is as a result of an overzealous lawyer and not the result of the philosophy of your administration in dealing with the partnership between the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars. We have sought to comply exactly with our lease obligations.”
Khan then requests Brown to “advise us of the method of your implementation of the default and termination, if that is your intention.” Khan adds, “We are on the cusp of training camp to begin the NFL season and will need to act quickly.”
Again: “Uh. Oh.”
The fact that Jacksonville is initiating the termination process seems very odd, unless Jacksonville perceives that it can derive a benefit that somehow outweighs the costs of possibly giving the team the ability to, you know, move. And it’s hard not to at least wonder whether Khan’s response is aimed to provoking a fight that eventually would give him the ability to, you know, move.
In the interim, we’ll track down a copy of the lease and try to make sense of who’s right and who’s wrong. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground on this one — either the Jaguars’ actions complied with the lease, or they didn’t.
It feels like something bigger is happening here, but it’s hard to imagine the lease disintegrating simply because the Jaguars recommended the hiring of a facilities manager. Even if the action constitutes a violation of the lease, it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that could result in the lease imploding and the Jaguars relocating.