Robert Kraft

For other people named Robert Kraft, see Robert Kraft (disambiguation).
Robert Kraft
Born Robert Kenneth Kraft
(1941-06-05) June 5, 1941
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma mater Columbia University (BA)
Harvard University (MBA)
Known for Principal Owner of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution
Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group
Net worth Increase US $ 5.2 billion (September 2016)[1]
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Myra Kraft (1963–2011)
Children 4 (including Jonathan)

Robert Kenneth Kraft[2] (born June 5, 1941) is an American business magnate. He is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Kraft Group, a diversified holding company with assets in paper and packaging, sports and entertainment, real estate development and a private equity portfolio. His sports holdings include the National Football League's New England Patriots, Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, and the stadium in which both teams play, Gillette Stadium.

Early life

Kraft was born in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Harry Kraft, a dress manufacturer in Boston's Chinatown, was a respected Jewish lay leader at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline and wanted his son to become a rabbi.[2] The Krafts were an observant Orthodox Jewish family. Robert grew up in Brookline, where he attended the Edward Devotion School[3] and in 1959, he graduated from Brookline High School, where he was senior class president.[4][5][6] During high school, Kraft was unable to participate in most sports because it interfered with his after-school Hebrew studies and observance of the Sabbath.[2]

Kraft attended Columbia University on scholarship, where he served as class president.[7] While at Columbia, Kraft joined Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and played running back and safety on the school's freshman and lightweight football teams.[2][5][8][9] On February 2, 1962, Kraft met Myra Hiatt at a delicatessen in Boston's Back Bay.[2] They married in June 1963.[10] That same year, Kraft graduated from Columbia, and in 1965, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.[2]

At the age of 27, Kraft was elected chairman of the Newton Democratic City Committee. He considered running against Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district Representative Philip J. Philbin in 1970, but chose not to, citing the loss of privacy and strain on his family entering politics would have caused. He was further discouraged from entering politics by the suicide of his friend, State Representative H. James Shea, Jr.[2]

Business career

Kraft began his professional career with the Rand-Whitney Group, a Worcester-based packaging company run by his father-in-law Jacob Hiatt.[5] In 1968, Kraft gained control of the company through a leveraged buyout.[2] He still serves as this company's chairman. In 1972, he founded International Forest Products, a trader of physical paper commodities. The two combined companies make up the largest privately held paper and packaging companies in the United States. Kraft has stated that he started the company out of a hunch that the increase in international communications and transportation would lead to an expansion of global trade in the late twentieth century.[11]

International Forest Products became a top 100 US exporters/importer in 1997 and in 2013 was No. 20 on the Journal of Commerce's list in that category.[12][13] Kraft said of the business in 1991 that, "We do things for a number of companies, including Avon, Kodak, cosmetics companies, candies, toys." The company produced both corrugated and folding cartons, which he stated, "are used to package everything from the Patriot missile, to mints, to Estee Lauder, Indiana Glass and Polaroid."[14] Kraft acquired interests in other areas, and ultimately formed the Kraft Group as an umbrella for them in 1998.[11]

Kraft was an investor in New England Television Corp., which gained control of WNAC-TV in 1982,[15] and Kraft became a director of the board in 1983. The station then became WNEV-TV. In 1986 he was named president of the corporation.[16] In 1991, Kraft exercised option to unload his shares for an estimated $25 million.[17]

Sports teams

Boston Lobsters and early bids for sports teams

In 1974, Kraft and five others purchased the Boston Lobsters of World Team Tennis (WTT).[18] The group spent heavily to lure a number of top players, including Martina Navratilova, and the Lobsters became one of the best teams in WTT. Following the 1978 season, Kraft announced that the franchise would fold.[19] The league itself folded soon thereafter.[2]

After the Lobsters folded, Kraft twice tried to purchase the New England Patriots, the first to try and purchase it from the bankrupt Sullivan family that owned the team before 1988,[20] and was mentioned as a bidder for the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics.[2]

New England Patriots

A Patriots fan since their American Football League days, Kraft has been a season ticket holder since 1971, when the team moved to the then-Schaefer Stadium.[5] In 1985, Kraft bought a 10-year option on Foxboro Raceway, a horse track adjacent to the stadium. The purchase prevented Patriots owner Billy Sullivan from holding non-Patriot events at Sullivan Stadium while races were being held.[21] Kraft took advantage of the fact that the Sullivans owned the stadium, but not the surrounding land. It was the beginning of a quest to not only buy the stadium, but the Patriots as well.[22] Sullivan's family was reeling from a series of bad investments, principally The Jackson Five 1984 Victory Tour, for which they had to pledge Sullivan Stadium as collateral.[23] Those problems ultimately forced Sullivan to sell controlling interest to Victor Kiam in 1988. However, the stadium lapsed into bankruptcy.[24]

In 1988, Kraft outbid several competitors, including Kiam, to buy the stadium out of bankruptcy court from Sullivan for $22 million. The stadium was considered to be outdated and nearly worthless, but the purchase included the stadium's lease to the Patriots, which ran through 2001.[25] The lease was ironclad enough to end Sullivan's three-decade involvement with the Patriots. When he and Kiam tried to move the team to Jacksonville, Kraft refused to let them break the lease. As a result, when Kiam was nearly brought down by bad investments of his own, he was forced to sell the Patriots to James Orthwein.[24]

In 1994, Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the team's lease at what was now Foxboro Stadium. Ever since Orthwein had bought the team in 1992, there had been constant rumors that he wanted to move the Patriots to St. Louis. Had Kraft accepted Orthwein's offer, it would have cleared the last significant hurdle to moving the team. However, Kraft turned it down.[26][27][28][29]

By this time, Orthwein was not interested in operating the team in New England long-term, and decided to sell the team. However, due to the terms of the operating covenant, any prospective buyers had to deal with Kraft. With this in mind, Kraft made an offer for an outright purchase of the team for $172 million, an offer which Orthwein accepted. No other sports team had ever sold for a price this high in any league at that time. Years later, Kraft said his passion for the Patriots led him to "break every one of my financial rules" in his pursuit of the team. To this day, Kraft has a Victory Tour poster among his mementos as a reminder of what allowed him to realize his longstanding dream of becoming a major league team owner.[22]

The Patriots sold out their season for the first time in franchise history. Every home game—preseason, regular season, and playoffs—has been sold out ever since.[30] In 1996 Kraft founded the New England Revolution, a charter member of Major League Soccer which began playing alongside the Patriots at Foxboro.[31]

Kraft (left), with President George W. Bush and Bill Belichick during the Patriots' visit to the White House in 2004

In 1998, Kraft considered moving the Patriots to Hartford Connecticut, based on an offer that the state of Connecticut would finance a new stadium in downtown Hartford. On April 30, 1998, Kraft terminated the deal just before it would become binding, choosing to instead build a new stadium in Foxboro with the state of Massachusetts funding [32]

In 2002, a $350 million stadium for the Patriots was privately financed by Kraft, initially called the CMGI Field, (later renamed Gillette Stadium).[33] In 2007, Kraft began to develop the land around Gillette Stadium, creating a $375 million open-air shopping and entertainment center called Patriot Place. The development included "The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon", a multi-story museum attached to the stadium, and the "CBS Scene", a CBS-themed restaurant.[34][35]

The Patriots appeared in Super Bowl XX under their original owners, the Sullivans. Yet this was one of only six playoff appearances in 33 years. However, since Kraft bought the team, they have made the playoffs 16 times in 21 years. They won AFC East titles in 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; they represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in 1996 (lost), 2001 (won), 2003 (won), 2004 (won), 2007 (lost), 2011 (lost), and 2014 (won). The Patriots finished the 2003, 2004, and 2010 seasons with identical 142 regular-season records after having never won more than 11 games prior to Kraft buying the team, and also finished the 2007 regular season undefeated before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.[36]

Kraft was principally involved in the 2011 NFL labor negotiations. NFLPA representative and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday praised Kraft for his role in the negotiations, stating, "without him, this deal does not get done... He is a man who helped us save football."[37]

Kraft again, with President Bush in 2005

In 2005, it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin had taken one of Kraft's three Super Bowl rings. Kraft quickly issued a statement saying that he had given Putin the ring out of "respect and admiration" he had for the Russian people and Putin's leadership.[38] Kraft later said his earlier statement was not true, and had been issued under pressure from the White House.[39][40][41][42] The ring is on display with state gifts at the Kremlin.[43]


In November 2005, Kraft met with Rick Parry, the Chief Executive of English Premier League team Liverpool. Kraft was rumored to be interested in investing money into the 2004–05 European Champions. Kraft told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Liverpool is a great brand and it's something our family respects a lot. We're always interested in opportunities and growing, so you never know what can happen." Eventually, however, the club was sold to American duo George Gillett and Tom Hicks.[44]


The Krafts have donated over $100 million to a variety of philanthropic causes including education, child and women issues, healthcare, youth sports and American and Israeli causes.[45] In 1990 Kraft, his wife, and his father-in-law funded a joint professorship between Brandeis University and Holy Cross College, forming the Kraft-Hiatt endowed chairs in comparative religion—the first inter-religious endowed chairs in the United States.[46]

In 2011, the Krafts pledged $20 million to Partners HealthCare to launch the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health,[47] an initiative designed to improve access to quality healthcare at community health centers throughout New England. Among the many institutions the Krafts have supported are Columbia University, Harvard Business School, Brandeis University, The College of the Holy Cross, Boston College, Tufts University, the Belmont Hill School, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. One of their most distinctive projects is supporting American Football Israel, including Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem and the Kraft Family Israel Football League. In 2007, in recognition of a gift of $5 million in support of Columbia's intercollegiate athletics program, the playing field at Columbia's Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Field Athletics Complex was named Robert K. Kraft Field.

He has received numerous honorary degrees from several colleges and universities and was awarded the NCAA's highest honor when he received the Theodore Roosevelt Award, "presented annually to a distinguished citizen of national reputation and outstanding accomplishments."

In 2011 Kraft was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[48]

In 2012, he became the first NFL owner in the 43-year history of the honor to be selected for the George Halas Award by the Pro Football Writers of America. The award is presented annually to the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.

Following the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombings, Kraft announced he would match up to $100,000 in donations made for the victims through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.[49]

Personal life

In June 1963, Kraft married Myra Nathalie Hiatt, a 1964 graduate of Brandeis University and the daughter of the late Worcester, Massachusetts businessman and philanthropist Jacob Hiatt. She died from cancer, aged 68, on July 20, 2011.[50] The Krafts were members of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts.[51] In her memory, all Patriots players wore a patch on their uniforms bearing Kraft's initials (MHK) throughout the 2011–12 season.[52] They had four sons:[53]

Awards and honors


  1. "Robert Kraft". Forbes. Retrieved 24 Sep 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Kindleberger, Richard (December 19, 1993). "The family man: Ties that bind pull at Patriots bidder, the complex Robert Kraft". The Boston Globe.
  3. New York Times: "'Between You and Me'" By MIKE WALLACE with GARY PAUL GATES January 22, 2006
  4. Susanna Baird (November 14, 2014). "Kraft cements his love for the old alma mater: Brookline High fetes Patriot owner". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Massachusetts Live: "For New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, an off-season of personal tragedy, professional triumph" By HOWARD ULMAN September 6, 2011
  6. Jspace Staf (February 4, 2012). "Jewish Owners Face Off in Super Bowl XLVI". Jspace.
  7. Michael Drosnin (March 12, 1963). "Withhold Class Funds, Letter Asks Seniors: Kraft Claims Message Will Not Hurt Drive". Columbia Spectator. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  8. Magbic Aleman. "Notable Alumni". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  9. "Robert Kraft to Be Inducted to Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame" by Paige Allen June 18, 2012
  10. Paulson, Michael (March 18, 2007). "Giving Large". The Boston Globe.
  11. 1 2 Blythe J. McGarvie (2009). Shaking the Globe: Courageous Decision-Making in a Changing World. John Wiley & Sons. p. 10. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  12. International Forest Products LLC website: "IFP ranked 27th among largest U.S. exporters and first among New England exporters" May 29, 2012
  13. Callum Borchers (May 29, 2013). "Kraft paper firm honored for exports". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  14. Keith Yokum (April 21, 1991). "Cardboard economics". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  15. "NETV's Officers, Investors". The Boston Globe. May 9, 1982.
  16. "Kraft Named President of N.E. Television". The Boston Globe. February 15, 1987.
  17. "Major investor will depart Ch. 7". The Boston Globe. June 28, 1991.
  18. "New Boston Net Team Obtains Six Backers". Berkshire Eagle. March 28, 1975. p. 18.
  19. Kirshenbaum, Jerry (November 6, 1978). "A Question of Resolve". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
  20. Jackie MacMullan (July 30, 1988). "KRAFT PURSUES STADIUM". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  21. McDonough, Will (July 26, 1987). "Sullivans' Team in Loss Column". The Boston Globe.
  22. 1 2 Burke, Monte (2015-09-19). "Unlikely Dynasty". Forbes.
  23. Harris, David (1986). The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL. New York: Bantam Books. pp. 629–32. ISBN 0-553-05167-9.
  24. 1 2 Farinella, Mark (June 27, 2009). "Jackson's part in Pats' history was real 'thriller'". The Sun Chronicle. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  25. Pazniokas, Mark; Garber, Greg (December 13, 1998). "The Art of Kraft". Hartford Courant.
  26. "For New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, an off-season of personal tragedy, professional triumph". Mass Live. Associated Press. September 6, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  27. Jim Corbett (November 13, 2014). "Patriot's Robert Kraft Talks Goodell, Gronk and Brady". USA Today. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  28. Andy Kaufman (February 10, 2015). "Boston Sports Fans Lucky to Not Have a James Dolan among Local Owners". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  29. "New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft featured on all-new episode of Forbes SportsMoney". Yes Network. February 20, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  30. Carlo DeVito (2014). Parcells: The Unauthorized Biography. Triumph Books. p. 170. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  31. "A New Sports League". Newsweek. 1996. p. 94.
  32. Doyle, Paul (March 18, 2014). "Hartford's Flirtation With The Patriots Ended In Heartbreak". Hartford Courant.
  33. Scott Olster (November 3, 2010). "Football's true Patriot". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  34. Kevin G. Quinn (2011). The Economics of the National Football League: The State of the Art. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 130. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  35. James C. O'Connell (2013). The Hub's Metropolis: Greater Boston's Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth. MIT Press. p. 244. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  36. Daniel Libon (December 14, 2014). "Game Notes: Patriots Clinch AFC East With Win Over Miami Dolphins: The Patriots won 41-13". Foxborough Patch. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  37. Reiss, Mike, "Saturday: Kraft helped save football", July 25, 2011,
  38. "Super Bowl ring has 124 diamonds". ESPN. Associated Press. 2005-06-30. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
  39. Smith, Michael David (June 15, 2013). "Putin said 'I can kill someone with this', took Kraft's Super Bowl ring". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  40. Farrar, Doug (June 15, 2013). "Robert Kraft says that Vladimir Putin stole his Super Bowl ring, which the Kremlin denies". Shutdown Corner. Yahoo! Sports.
  41. Eshchenko, Alla; Karimi, Faith (June 16, 2013). "Russian president: I did not steal Super Bowl ring". CNN.
  42. Swaine, Jon (June 16, 2013). "Vladimir Putin 'stole a $25,000 ring from New England Patriots owner'". The Telegraph.
  43. "Spokesman for Putin denies he stole Kraft's Super Bowl ring – ProFootballTalk". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  44. "Kraft admits Liverpool interest". BBC Sport. 2005-11-14. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
  45. Joe Calabrese (January 18, 2015). "Robert Kraft: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  46. "BRANDEIS AND HOLY CROSS TO SHARE A PROFESSORSHIP". The Boston Globe. September 13, 1990. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  47. "Founding Story". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  48. "American Academy of Arts and Sciences to induct 231st Class of Members" (Press release). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  49. Breech, John (April 16, 2013). "Robert Kraft donating up to $100,000 to Boston Marathon victims". CBS Sports. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
  50. "Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots owner, dies". Yahoo! Sports. July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  51. Gershman, Andrew (January 23, 2012). "Bob Kraft: New England Patriots'Jewish owner". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
  52. "Pats' season, dedicated to Myra Kraft, continues to Super Bowl". National Football League. January 22, 2012.
  53. 1 2 3 4 "Philanthropist Myra Kraft dies". ESPN July 20, 2011
  54. Boston Business Journal: "Josh Kraft: Someone to look up to" by Mary Moore November 17, 2008
  55. 1 2 3 4 "Robert K. Kraft". The Official Athletics Website of Columbia University in the City of New York. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  56. "Robert Kraft Wins George Halas Award". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  57. "Robert Kraft receives Carnegie Hall award". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  58. Philanthropist/Patriots owner to keynote YU graduation
  59. Robert Kraft to receive honorary degree from Yeshiva

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Kraft (businessman).
Sporting positions
Preceded by
James Orthwein
Principal Owner of the New England Patriots
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sally Ride
Recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Award
Succeeded by
Paul Tagliabue
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