Robert Kraft

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Robert Kraft
Kraft in December 2008
Kraft in December 2008
Born Robert Kenneth Kraft
(1941-06-05) June 5, 1941 (age 73)
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Residence Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Columbia University
Harvard Business School
Occupation Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group
Known for Ownership of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution
Net worth Increase US $ 4 billion
(October 2014)[1]
Board member of
The Kraft Group, Viacom
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Myra Kraft (1963–2011; her death; 4 children)
Children Jonathan, Daniel, Joshua, David

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 Gillette Stadium.

Early life[edit]

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

Kraft attended Columbia University on scholarship. 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][4][6][7] On February 2, 1962, Kraft met Myra Hiatt at a delicatessen in Boston's Back Bay.[2] They married in June 1963.[8] That same year, Kraft graduated from Columbia. 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've caused. He was further discouraged from entering politics by the suicide of his friend, State Representative H. James Shea, Jr.[2]

Business career[edit]

Kraft began his professional career with the Rand-Whitney Group, a Worcester-based packaging company run by his father-in-law Jacob Hiatt.[4] 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. International Forest Products is consistently among the top 100 US exporters/importers and in 2011 was No. 27 on the Journal of Commerce's list in that category.[9]

Kraft was an investor in New England Television Corp., which gained control of WNAC-TV in 1982.[10] The station then became WNEV-TV. In 1986 he helped David G. Mugar gain a controlling interest in the station and was named president of the corporation.[11] By 1991, Kraft and Mugar's relationship had become strained. Kraft exercised an option, which forced Mugar to buy out Kraft's shares for an estimated $25 million.[12] Kraft continued his investment in the entertainment field by buying several Boston radio stations. He is a member of a private equity group, which funded film, theatre, and television producer Scott Sanders' company, "Scott Sanders Productions."[13]

Boston Lobsters and early bids for sports teams[edit]

In 1974, Kraft and five others purchased the Boston Lobsters of World Team Tennis (WTT).[14] 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.[15] The league itself folded soon thereafter.[2]

After the Lobsters folded, Kraft twice tried to purchase the New England Patriots and was mentioned as a bidder for the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics.[2]

New England Patriots[edit]

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.[4]

In 1985, Kraft bought an option on Foxboro Raceway, a horse track adjacent to the stadium. The option would allow Kraft prevent the financially struggling Patriots' owners from holding non-Patriot events at Sullivan Stadium while races were being held.[16] In 1988, Kraft outbid several competitors to buy the stadium out of bankruptcy court from Billy 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.[17]

In 1992, St. Louis businessman, James Orthwein, purchased the Patriots from Victor Kiam, who was facing bankruptcy and owed Orthwein several million dollars. For the next two years, rumors of a Patriots move to St. Louis were rampant, based on the fact that Orthwein wanted to return the NFL to his hometown, which had lost the Cardinals to Arizona in 1988. In 1994, Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the team's lease at the Foxboro Stadium, which, if Kraft agreed, would free Orthwein to move the Patriots to St. Louis. However, Kraft rejected the offer and made a counter-bid—a then NFL-record $175 million for the outright purchase of the Patriots (a surprising move in that the Patriots were, at the time, among the least valuable franchises in the NFL), an offer Orthwein accepted.

The day after the NFL approved the sale on February 22, 1994, Patriots fans showed their appreciation by purchasing almost 6,000 season tickets en route to selling out every game for the first time in the team's 34-year history. Every home game—regular season, postseason, and even preseason—has been sold out since. The Patriots responded by putting together a seven-game winning streak to end the 1994 season, making the playoffs for the first time since 1986. In 1996 Kraft founded the New England Revolution, a charter member of Major League Soccer which began playing alongside the Patriots at Foxboro.

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

After the failure of a number of stadium plans that included either revamping the area in Foxboro or relocating to Boston or a town near Boston, the Patriots nearly moved to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1999. Plans were also discussed about moving the team to Providence, Rhode Island (where the Providence Place Mall now stands). They reached an agreement with then–Connecticut Governor John Rowland to move to a new stadium intended to be the cornerstone of downtown redevelopment. After Rowland lobbied the Connecticut legislature to approve state funds for the stadium the Patriots were given another opportunity to resume negotiations with the Massachusetts legislators who had initially balked on paying for site improvements for a new stadium in Foxboro. At the last minute the Massachusetts legislature approved the subsidies and hurdles were cleared for what became Gillette Stadium in the Patriots' longtime home of Foxboro. The $350 million stadium, privately financed by Kraft, opened in 2002 as CMGI Field, before financial difficulties for CMGI resulted in Gillette taking over naming rights.

In 2007, Kraft announced plans to develop the land around Gillette Stadium, creating a $375 million open-air shopping and entertainment center called Patriot Place. The development opened in stages through 2007, 2008, and 2009 and 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.

The Patriots appeared in Super Bowl XX under their original owners, the Sullivans, one of just six playoff appearances in 33 years. Since Kraft bought the team they have made them 15 times in 20 years. They have also appeared in more playoff games (27) than in the team's first 34 seasons combined (10). The team won AFC East titles in 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; 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 14–2 regular-season records, and also finished the 2007 regular season undefeated before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Kraft was principally involved in the 2011 NFL labor negotiations. He was credited for being a bridge-builder who brought the two sides closer together and a catalyst in negotiating a historic 10-year agreement. The deal was announced on Monday, July 25, 2011, while Kraft was still mourning the death of his "sweetheart", Myra Kraft, his wife of 48 years, who had died only five days before. In what became an iconic image of the CBA resolution, 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."[18]

Kraft again, with President Bush in 2005

In Kraft's first 18 seasons as team owner the Patriots have won 193 regular season games and 19 playoff games (including Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLIX)The team reached a milestone 200th win (encompassing regular season and playoffs) under Kraft ownership with their third win of 2011, a 30–19 win against the Oakland Raiders.

In 2005, a minor international incident was caused when 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.[19] Kraft later said his earlier statement was not true, and had been issued under pressure from the White House.[20][21][22][23] The ring is on display with state gifts at the Kremlin.[24]

Soccer[edit]

After selling 3.5 million tickets for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Kraft family saw a business opportunity to invest in the new professional soccer league Major League Soccer. In 1995, Kraft became the investor / operator of the New England Revolution from Major League Soccer. The team had a successful run from 2002 to 2007, with four MLS Cup appearances in six years. Kraft attended in person for three of the four appearances, opting for a regular season New England Patriots game instead of attending the 2006 MLS Cup between his Revolution and the Houston Dynamo.[citation needed]

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.[25] Liverpool was eventually sold to another local sports ownership in 2010, New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox.

Philanthropy[edit]

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. In 2011, the Krafts pledged $20 million to Partners HealthCare to launch the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health,[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

Personal life[edit]

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.[29] The Krafts were members of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts.[30] In her memory, all Patriots players wore a patch on their uniforms bearing Kraft's initials (MHK) throughout the 2011–12 season.[31] They had four sons:[32]

In June 2012, Kraft began dating actress Ricki Noel Lander.[34][35] 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 Landers, 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."[36][37][38][39]

Awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Forbes 400 Richest Americans (2014): #122 Robert Kraft". Forbes. October 5, 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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. ^ a b c d Massachusetts Live: "For New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, an off-season of personal tragedy, professional triumph" By HOWARD ULMAN September 6, 2011
  5. ^ Jspace Staf (February 4, 2012). "Jewish Owners Face Off in Super Bowl XLVI". Jspace. 
  6. ^ Notable Alumni
  7. ^ "Robert Kraft to Be Inducted to Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame" by Paige Allen June 18, 2012
  8. ^ Paulson, Michael (March 18, 2007). "Giving Large". The Boston Globe. 
  9. ^ International Forest Products LLC website: "IFP ranked 27th among largest U.S. exporters and first among New England exporters" May 29, 2012
  10. ^ "NETV's Officers, Investors". The Boston Globe. May 9, 1982. 
  11. ^ "Kraft Named President of N.E. Television". The Boston Globe. February 15, 1987. 
  12. ^ "Major investor will depart Ch. 7". The Boston Globe. June 28, 1991. 
  13. ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary (2007-03-21). "Color Purple Producer Sanders Partners With Disney on Film and Theatre Company". Playbill. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  14. ^ "New Boston Net Team Obtains Six Backers". Berkshire Eagle. March 28, 1975. p. 18. 
  15. ^ Kirshenbaum, Jerry (November 6, 1978). "A Question of Resolve". Sports Illustrated. 
  16. ^ McDonough, Will (July 26, 1987). "Sullivans' Team in Loss Column". The Boston Globe. 
  17. ^ Pazniokas, Mark; Garber, Greg (December 13, 1998). "The Art of Kraft". Hartford Courant. 
  18. ^ Reiss, Mike, "Saturday: Kraft helped save football", July 25, 2011, ESPNBoston.com
  19. ^ "Super Bowl ring has 124 diamonds". ESPN. Associated Press. 2005-06-30. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Farrar, Doug (June 15, 2013). "Robert Kraft says that Vladimir Putin stole his Super Bowl ring, which the Kremlin denies". Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports). 
  22. ^ Eshchenko, Alla; Karimi, Faith (June 16, 2013). "Russian president: I did not steal Super Bowl ring". CNN. 
  23. ^ Swaine, Jon (June 16, 2013). "Vladimir Putin 'stole a $25,000 ring from New England Patriots owner'". The Telegraph. 
  24. ^ Spokesman for Putin denies he stole Kraft’s Super Bowl ring
  25. ^ "Kraft admits Liverpool interest". BBC Sport. 2005-11-14. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  26. ^ http://www.kraftcommunityhealth.org/learn/Kraft-Center-Founding-Story.aspx
  27. ^ "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. 
  28. ^ Breech, John (April 16, 2013). "Robert Kraft donating up to $100,000 to Boston Marathon victims". CBS Sports. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots owner, dies". Yahoo! Sports. July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011. [dead link]
  30. ^ Gershman, Andrew (January 23, 2012). "Bob Kraft: New England Patriots'Jewish owner". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
  31. ^ "Pats' season, dedicated to Myra Kraft, continues to Super Bowl". National Football League. January 22, 2012.
  32. ^ a b c d "Philanthropist Myra Kraft dies". ESPN July 20, 2011
  33. ^ Boston Business Journal: "Josh Kraft: Someone to look up to" by Mary Moore November 17, 2008
  34. ^ Shanahan, Mark; Goldstein, Meredith (September 10, 2012). "Bob Kraft, Ricki Noel Lander hit US Open". The Boston Globe.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "Toucher & Rich: Robert Kraft Helps Ricki Noel Lander With Audition Video". CBS Radio. July 11, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Robert Kraft's Audition Tape Is a Web Hit". ABC News. July 12, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Robert Kraft expresses regret over video". The Boston Globe. July 11, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  39. ^ USA Today: "Pats' owner Kraft regrets video of audition with gal 'pal'" By Nate Davis July 11, 2012
  40. ^ a b c d Kraft profile = Columbia University
  41. ^ Kraft wins George Halas Award - CBS Boston
  42. ^ Kraft receives Carnegie Hall Award - Boston.com

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sally Ride
Theodore Roosevelt Award (NCAA)
2006
Succeeded by
Paul Tagliabue
Preceded by
James Orthwein
New England Patriots Principal Owner
1994–present
Succeeded by
incumbent