Robert Kenneth Kraft (born June 5, 1941) is an American businessman. 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. He is the owner of the National Football League's New England Patriots, Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, and Gillette Stadium, where both teams play.
Kraft in 2008, at a Patriots-Raiders game
Robert Kenneth Kraft
June 5, 1941
|Alma mater||Columbia University (BA)|
Harvard University (MBA)
|Net worth||US$6.6 billion (September 2018)|
|Political party||Democratic Party|
(m. 1963; her death 2011)
|Children||4, including Jonathan|
|New England Patriots|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kraft was born in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father – Harry Kraft, a dress manufacturer in Boston's Chinatown – was a Jewish lay leader at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline and wanted his son to become a rabbi. The Krafts were a Conservative Jewish family. Robert grew up in Brookline, where he attended the Edward Devotion School and in 1959, he graduated from Brookline High School, where he was senior class president. 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.
Kraft attended Columbia University, where he served as class president. While at Columbia, Kraft joined Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and played running back and safety on the school's freshman and lightweight football teams. On February 2, 1962, Kraft met Myra Hiatt at a delicatessen in Boston's Back Bay. They married in June 1963. That same year, Kraft graduated from Columbia, and in 1965, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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.
Kraft began his professional career with the Rand-Whitney Group, a Worcester-based packaging company run by his father-in-law Jacob Hiatt. In 1968, he gained control of the company through a leveraged buyout. 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.
International Forest Products became a top 100 US exporters/importer in 1997 and in 2013 was ranked No. 20 on the Journal of Commerce's list in that category. 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." Kraft acquired interests in other areas, and ultimately formed the Kraft Group as an umbrella for them in 1998.
Kraft was an investor in New England Television Corp., which gained control of WNAC-TV in 1982, 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. In 1991, Kraft exercised his option to unload his shares for an estimated $25 million.
Boston Lobsters and early bids for sports teams
In 1974, Kraft and five others purchased the Boston Lobsters of World Team Tennis (WTT). 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. The league itself folded soon thereafter.
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. 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. 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 buy not only the stadium, but the Patriots as well. 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. Those problems ultimately forced Sullivan to sell controlling interest of the team in 1988, while the stadium lapsed into bankruptcy.
In 1988, Kraft outbid several competitors 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. While Kraft placed a bid on the Patriots franchise as well, he lost the bidding to Victor Kiam. 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.
Ever since Orthwein had bought the team in 1992, there had been constant rumors that he wanted to move the Patriots to St. Louis. In 1994, Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the team's lease at what was now Foxboro Stadium. Had Kraft accepted Orthwein's offer, it would have cleared the last significant hurdle to moving the team. However, Kraft turned it down.
By 1994, Orthwein was not interested in operating the team in New England long-term, and decided to sell it. 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, which Orthwein accepted. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for an NFL team. 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. Kraft has stated he keeps 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.
Following the NFL's approval of the sale, the Patriots sold out their entire 1994 season – the first full sellout in franchise history. Every home game – including preseason, regular season, and playoffs – has been sold out ever since.
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 Commonwealth of Massachusetts infrastructure funding.
In 2002, a $350-million stadium for the Patriots was privately financed by Kraft, initially called the CMGI Field (later renamed Gillette Stadium). 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 and hall of fame attached to the stadium, and the "CBS Scene," a CBS-themed restaurant.
Under Kraft's ownership, the Patriots experienced newfound and sustained success. While the Patriots appeared in Super Bowl XX under their original owners, the Sullivans, this was one of only six playoff appearances in 34 years. Since Kraft bought the team, however, they have made the playoffs 18 times in 23 years. They won AFC East titles in 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019; they represented the AFC in the Super Bowl that concluded each of the following seasons: 1996 (lost), 2001 (won), 2003 (won), 2004 (won), 2007 (lost), 2011 (lost), 2014 (won), 2016 (won), 2017 (lost), and 2018 (won). The Patriots finished the 2003, 2004, 2010, and 2016 seasons with identical 14–2 regular-season records – after having never won more than 11 games prior to Kraft buying the team – and finished the 2007 regular season at 16–0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
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."
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. Kraft later said his earlier statement was not true, and had been issued under pressure from the White House. The ring is on display with state gifts at the Kremlin.
In 1996 Kraft founded the New England Revolution, a charter member of Major League Soccer which began playing alongside the Patriots at Foxboro Stadium. Kraft also owned the San Jose Clash (later San Jose Earthquakes) from 1998 to 2000.
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 Champions League winners. 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. Liverpool is now owned by Fenway Sports Group, owners of fellow Boston-based sport team the Boston Red Sox.
Blizzard Entertainment announced in July 2017 that Kraft bought ownership in the Boston Uprising, one of the first seven teams for the professional eSports Overwatch League. They played in Season 1 of the Overwatch League. Preseason for the league began December 6, 2017, and the regular season started on January 10, 2018. Boston Uprising finished third in the Overwatch League's inaugural season. 
The Krafts have donated over $100 million to a variety of philanthropic causes including education, child- and women-related issues, healthcare, youth sports and American and Israeli causes. 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.
In 2011, the Krafts pledged $20 million to Partners HealthCare to launch the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health, 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. 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.
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 2017 Kraft announced a contribution of $6 million to build the first ever regulation size American football field in Israel. In June 2017, Robert Kraft, along with several NFL Hall of Famers, traveled to Israel for the grand opening of the new Kraft Family Sports Campus. In December 2018, following Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at Tree of Life, Kraft visited the synagogue to pay his respects and attended services with the congregation before the Patriots played the Steelers in a game the next day.
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 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.
In 2017, Kraft funded a new van as part of the Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in order to help combat the opioid crisis in Boston. The vans allows those struggling with opioid addiction to seek health services in their own neighborhood.
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. The two had a very happy marriage, and she supported him throughout his career. She succumbed to ovarian cancer, aged 68, on July 20, 2011, and Kraft was devastated by her death. The Krafts were members of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts. In her memory, all Patriots players wore a patch on their uniforms bearing Kraft's initials (MHK) throughout the 2011–2012 season. They had four sons:
- Jonathan A. Kraft, born March 4, 1964, president of The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots
- Daniel A. Kraft, president of International Forest Products founded in 1972 by his father
- Joshua Kraft, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston
- David Kraft
In June 2012, Kraft began dating actress Ricki Noel Lander, who is 39 years his junior. In July 2012, Kraft assisted Lander in creating an audition video for a role in The Internship, a then-upcoming Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson film. In the video, Kraft reads Wilson's lines for a bikini-clad Lander, dances briefly, curses, and throws a punch at another actor. After an anonymously supplied copy of the video was hosted on the Barstool Sports website, it went viral and became a subject of commentary on late-night television. Kraft issued a statement saying "I tried to help Ricki prepare an audition tape ... I never intended that it would be made public and I regret that it has. I think we can all agree that Owen Wilson has nothing to worry about. I am going to stick to my day job."
Awards and honors
- 1987 Columbia University John Jay Award
- Six-time Super Bowl champion– XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI, LIII (as owner of the New England Patriots)
- 2004 Columbia University Alexander Hamilton Medal
- 2006 Theodore Roosevelt Award
- 2012 George Halas Award
- 2013 Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence Award
- Football field named "Robert Kraft Field" in his honor at Columbia University
- 2015 honorary doctorate in humane letters from Yeshiva University
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- Myers, Gary (January 29, 2017). "Patriots owner Robert Kraft opens up about Deflategate, Roger Goodell and President Donald Trump". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- New York Times: "'Between You and Me'" By Mike Wallace with Gary Paul Gates January 22, 2006
- 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.
- Massachusetts Live: "For New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, an off-season of personal tragedy, professional triumph" By Howard Ulman September 6, 2011
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- Blythe J. McGarvie (2009). Shaking the Globe: Courageous Decision-Making in a Changing World. John Wiley & Sons. p. 10. ISBN 9780470485019. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- International Forest Products LLC website: "IFP ranked 27th among largest U.S. exporters and first among New England exporters" May 29, 2012
- Callum Borchers (May 29, 2013). "Kraft paper firm honored for exports". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Keith Yokum (April 21, 1991). "Cardboard economics". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- "NETV's Officers, Investors". The Boston Globe. May 9, 1982.
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- "Major investor will depart Ch. 7". The Boston Globe. June 28, 1991. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
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- McDonough, Will (July 26, 1987). "Sullivans' Team in Loss Column". The Boston Globe.
- Burke, Monte (September 19, 2015). "Unlikely Dynasty". Forbes.
- Harris, David (1986). The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL. New York: Bantam Books. pp. 629–32. ISBN 0-553-05167-9.
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- Jr, Robert Mcg Thomas (January 22, 1994). "Sold! Time to Call Them the New England Permanents". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
- Carlo DeVito (2014). Parcells: The Unauthorized Biography. Triumph Books. p. 170. ISBN 9781633191372. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Doyle, Paul (March 18, 2014). "Hartford's Flirtation With The Patriots Ended In Heartbreak". Hartford Courant.
- Scott Olster (November 3, 2010). "Football's true Patriot". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Kevin G. Quinn (2011). The Economics of the National Football League: The State of the Art. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 130. ISBN 9781441962898. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- James C. O'Connell (2013). The Hub's Metropolis: Greater Boston's Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth. MIT Press. p. 244. ISBN 9780262018753. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- 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.
- Reiss, Mike, "Saturday: Kraft helped save football", July 25, 2011, ESPNBoston.com
- "Super Bowl ring has 124 diamonds". ESPN. Associated Press. June 30, 2005. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
- Smith, Michael David (June 15, 2013). "Putin said 'I can kill someone with this', took Kraft's Super Bowl ring". NBC Sports. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Farrar, Doug (June 15, 2013). "Robert Kraft says that Vladimir Putin stole his Super Bowl ring, which the Kremlin denies". Shutdown Corner. Yahoo! Sports.
- Eshchenko, Alla; Karimi, Faith (June 16, 2013). "Russian president: I did not steal Super Bowl ring". CNN.
- Swaine, Jon (June 16, 2013). "Vladimir Putin 'stole a $25,000 ring from New England Patriots owner'". The Telegraph.
- "Spokesman for Putin denies he stole Kraft's Super Bowl ring – ProFootballTalk". Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- "A New Sports League". Newsweek. 1996. p. 94.
- "Club History". San Jose Earthquakes. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
- "Kraft admits Liverpool interest". BBC Sport. November 14, 2005. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
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- "The Overwatch League: Schedule". The Overwatch League. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
- "Overwatch League Playoff Standings". The Overwatch League. Activision Blizzard.
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- "Brandeis and Holy Cross to Share a Professorship". The Boston Globe. September 13, 1990. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- "Founding Story". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- "Patriots Owner Kraft to Donate $6 Million for Israel's First American Football Stadium".
- Mayor Nir Barkat, NE Patriots’ Robert Kraft & NFL Hall of Famers’ Delegation Open Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem
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- Moore, Mary (November 17, 2008). "Josh Kraft: Someone to look up to". Boston Business Journal.
- Shanahan, Mark; Goldstein, Meredith (September 10, 2012). "Bob Kraft, Ricki Noel Lander hit US Open". The Boston Globe.
- Shanahan, Mark; Goldstein, Meredith (July 12, 2012). "Robert Kraft and girlfriend Ricki Noel Lander arm in arm Thursday at Sun Valley media conference". The Boston Globe.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Kraft (businessman).|
- New England Patriots biography
- New England Revolution biography
- The Kraft Group
- Forbes 2011: The 400 Richest Americans: #263 Robert Kraft
- Forbes 2008: The 500 Largest American Private Companies: #326 The Kraft Group
- Forbes 2011: The World's Billionaires: #833 Robert Kraft
| Principal Owner of the New England Patriots
| Recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Award