For a solid 20 years, the New England Patriots put together one of the most dominant dynasties in the history of professional sports. The two figures who get the most recognition for that success were coach Bill Belichick and former quarterback Tom Brady. Yet Patriots owner Robert Kraft also deserves to be acknowledged as a core part of New England’s success.
Compared to Brady and Belichick, however, most people don’t know that much about Kraft, despite his having owned the Patriots for over 25 years.
How did Robert Kraft acquire the New England Patriots?
Kraft bought the Patriots franchise in 1994. Yet Kraft had owned the Patriots’ Foxboro Stadium since 1988. That gave him a significant amount of leverage over his predecessor as owner, James Orthwein. Orthwein had purchased the team in 1992, and had big dreams of moving the franchise to his hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri.
As part of that plan, Orthwein tried to convince Kraft to let him buy out the remainder of the team’s lease at Foxboro Stadium. Kraft flatly refused. Orthwein had no interest in operating the team out of New England, and so he ultimately was forced to sell the team to Kraft for a grand total of $175 million, according to Business Insider.
Today, the Patriots are the second-most valuable franchise in the NFL, with an estimated worth of $3.8 billion.
Robert Kraft’s business success and net worth
Kraft built his business empire working in the paper industry. His first job after graduating from Harvard Business School was with his father-in-law’s paper and packing company.
Three short years later, Kraft used a leveraged buyout to acquire control of the company. A few years later, he founded the company International Forest Products, an import/export business.
Over the next several decades, Kraft continued to build his business, amassing tens of millions of dollars in the process. As he grew ever richer, he started acquiring businesses in other areas as well. In 1998, he formed the Kraft Group to function as an umbrella for his various business interests, including both International Forest Products and the Patriots.
In addition, the Kraft Group owns the New England Revolution soccer club and a stake in the mixed martial arts league Ultimate Fighting Championship. The group also owns Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place, and the staffing company that manages the labor at the stadium. At this point, Kraft is a billionaire many times over, with an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion (per Forbes).
What does a billionaire’s personal life look like?
Robert Kraft was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was one of three children born to Sarah Bryna and Harry Kraft. In 1962, while attending Columbia University, Kraft met his future wife Myra Hiatt at a deli in Boston. They wed a year later and went on to have four sons together: Jonathan, Daniel, Joshua, and David.
Kraft and his wife remained married up until her death of ovarian cancer in 2011. The following year, Kraft began dating the much younger actress Ricki Noel Lander.
While the two were together, an embarrassing video leaked of Kraft helping Lander prepare for an upcoming audition. During the brief scene, Kraft curses, dances, and throws a fake punch at another actor.
Kraft and Lander’s relationship ended in 2018. According to MassLive.com, a year later, Kraft was involved in a much more serious media scandal, when he was charged with having solicited a prostitute while at a massage parlor in Florida.
The litigation against Kraft remains ongoing, with his lawyers arguing that video evidence violated Kraft’s rights and cannot be admissible in court.