Meeting Shilen Patel as new West Brom owner reveals ambitious ‘global force’ vision

BirminghamLive was invited to meet with Shilen Patel, the new West Bromwich Albion owner, recently and here’s what happened.
We were incredibly lucky to be invited to meet with Shilen Patel, the new owner of West Bromwich Albion. Taking advantage of his most recent trip to the West Midlands, where he attended a game at Queens Park Rangers, Patel, who is also the club chairman, scheduled talks with key club staff, including Carlos Corberan.

The chairman’s automobile parking place, immediately outside the building of the club’s training ground, has been vacant for quite some time, and while Patel will not be parking his car here on a daily basis, the The significance of his presence at the head of the club goes much beyond that. The relief he expressed in his WBA TV interview following the completion of the takeover is sincere. He woke up.
Patel has had a long-standing desire to own a football club outright. We discussed his other sporting business interest, Serie A team Bologna. He has held a minority ownership in the club for ten years, during which time they have risen from Serie B to the top tier of the league. They are currently in the Champions League, and it has been quite a ride.

GALLERY | Shilen Patel's arrival at Albion 📸 | West Bromwich Albion
While Champions League football might be a million miles away for Albion right now, there are more immediate matters at hand – supporters, in the first instance, hope for communication, transparency and a generally clearer idea of the direction that the ownership of the club wishes to take it. Patel has, already, attended more Albion matches in the last three weeks than his predecessor did in the last three years.
Being present at games isn’t the be all and end all, of course. Nobody would have been too fussed had Guochuan Lai kept Albion on a sustainable and healthy footing despite not visiting on the odd occasion. Patel from day one, though, has been transparent and expressive. Albion fans by and large don’t expect nor demand the earth. They do hope for, and are deserving of, the odd address.
Patel is immediately personable. Setting aside his pursuit of Albion, the club we follow and love, to relieve their immediate financial concerns, he’d have struck you otherwise as a wholly pleasant individual. His humility is evident. He’s not one for the limelight, so when he was introduced to The Hawthorns against Southampton last month following the agreement of the takeover, he admitted he didn’t really know what to do.

A bit of applause, a wave, a thumbs up…he was particularly pleased, though, that his wife Parita was able to be with him that evening to witness the fruits of his six-month long efforts. He is more than happy, in the intervening period, to learn, meet people, be they staff or minority shareholders, and get fully up to speed with West Bromwich Albion and English football.

West Brom agree £60m takeover with Florida-based entrepeneur Shilen Patel -  who is set to buy an 88 per cent stake in the club and end Guochuan Lai's  disastrous tenure | Daily

The 2-2 draw with QPR on Wednesday night might otherwise have been an eye opener for a Floridian, but Patel has been paying close attention to Albion during the months in which the takeover has been processing. He acknowledged Cedric Kipre’s rather fortunate Maradona moment, while he tried to remember to keep his emotions relatively in check when Mikey Johnston hit the back of the net again, in the presence of QPR directors. He’s engrossed already.

Family is unquestionably an enormous part of Patel’s life. He hopes for his children, who are eight, 10 and 11, to join him on a voyage over the Atlantic and to wherever Albion are playing at some stage before the end of the season. Heading the opposite way up the family tree, Shilen speaks extremely passionately, even emotionally, of the work of his father Dr Kiran, who joins him in ownership of the company, Bilkul Football WBA, which has purchased Albion.

Patel isn’t your archetypal football club owner. That much is clear. Philanthropy is a significant aspect of the entire family. He is fervent as he talks about how, with the appropriate education, drive and opportunity, people can reach any destination that they wish to, irrespective of their beginnings. Sport, in this sense, is a popular vehicle for many in which a career can be pursued. It’s about ensuring, too, that those who don’t make it have a safety net and are still recipients of other suitable career paths.

“One of the things I’ve always admired about my father, and his father before him, was that, even when circumstances were limited, there was always a desire to be doing something for others,” Patel told BBC WM. “My grandfather was an active member of the Lions Club, a global charitable club. We established a hospital in the village where my grandfather was born. It’s a very rural location with poor infrastructure. Infant mortality rates were extremely high.

“My grandfather’s dream was to return to his village and create this hospital. Only a few weeks before his death, he was

able to get the permits from the Government to get it done. My father and his brothers worked together to build the hospital.
“The things that were done and decided before I was born are such a big part of who I am. They are things that I am so proud of. For me, it’s about how do we carry it forward? For my father right now, healthcare and education have been extremely important. We’ve also built a school which is outperforming the city schools in our district, in our State. It’s designed to give education to rural kids, children of farmers.

“We started it as just an elementary school, now there’s a boarding component, there are great athletic facilities. My father has since moved on to establishing higher education, so there is now a medical school in Clearwater. My father turns 75 next week and rather than throwing a big party, he has a ribbon cutting for a new medical school, from which another couple of hundred doctors will come out every year and be able to help all over the world.

“It’s what’s meaningful to him. He’s working to expand universities and colleges in Zambia, where he was born and then in India, where our roots are, in addition to the US. This ties into my love of this sport as well. It’s so global. You see people from all over the world and it’s given them the ultimate opportunity and platform. Footballers can come from anywhere and go anywhere, that’s what’s so compelling. West Bromwich Albion can be a global force for creating opportunities, possibilities, for alleviating poverty and changing mind-sets.”

Patel simply loves sports. Patel admits that it was evident from a young age that he would never make it to the top level in any sport, but he is a passionate NFL fan and supports the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s not exactly a glory hound; he believes the Bucs could go unblemished for the next five years and still have the NFL’s lowest win ratio! Patel has even seen them play at Wembley against Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. He enjoys NFL Fantasy Drafts. The Patel family also has season tickets to the NHL team Tampa Bay Lightning.

We discuss the Championship, England’s football structure, and why it is so appealing to international investors. It is growing simpler to access EFL football in the United States, while the options to complete takeovers of Premier League clubs are becoming more constrained. Patel sees Albion as an opportunity that Lai has clearly missed, and he intends to seize it.

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