"Without him, this deal does not get done. He is a man
who helped us save football and we're so [grateful] for
that. We're [grateful] for his family and for the
opportunity he presented to get this deal done."
– Indianapolis Colts C Jeff Saturday on Patriots owner
Robert Kraft's role in the negotiations of the new 10-year
Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have experienced one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of sports. Now in his 20th season of ownership, Kraft has transformed one of the league's least successful clubs into what many observers view as a model NFL franchise. In its first 34 seasons of existence, the Patriots won a total of 225 games. Under Kraft's guidance, the franchise equaled that win total in just 19 years. In the five seasons immediately preceding his purchase (1989-93), the Patriots were a moribund team, winning just 19 of 80 games (.238 pct.) and recording the worst record in the NFL over that span.
When he bought the franchise on Jan. 21, 1994, Kraft announced his intention to bring a championship to New England, a tall order considering the team's previous success rate. But since then, under Kraft's leadership, the Patriots have won more division titles (12), conference crowns (6) and Super Bowl championships (3) than any other NFL team. In 2011, the Patriots claimed their sixth AFC Championship during Kraft's tenure, earning him the distinction as the first principal owner in NFL history to earn six trips to the Super Bowl. Since 1994, no other NFL team has appeared in more than four Super Bowls. In Kraft's 19 seasons, the Patriots have qualified for the playoffs 14 times, more than doubling the franchise's playoff appearances in their first 34 seasons. INSTALLING HIS VISION
It didn't take long for Kraft's vision to come into focus. His personal investment in the team restored the faith of Patriots fans and rejuvenated interest throughout New England. The year he bought the team, season ticket sales soared to new heights, eclipsing 40,000 for the first time in franchise history. By the start of his first season, every game was sold out, a feat that had never been accomplished in the franchise's previous 34 seasons. The achievement ensured that local broadcast blackouts would be lifted and every Patriots game, home and away, would be televised throughout New England for the first time in team history. Every game has been sold out since that 1994 season opener.
In his first year of ownership, the Patriots won their final seven regular season games to qualify for the postseason, ending an eight-year playoff drought. By his fifth anniversary as owner, under the direction of two different head coaches, the Patriots had already established themselves as perennial playoff contenders, qualifying for the postseason four times, including twice as division champions. In 1996, the Patriots claimed their first division title in 10 years. After defeating Pittsburgh in the playoffs that year, the Patriots hosted their first conference championship game in franchise history and advanced to Super Bowl XXXI. ASCENSION
The transformation of the Patriots under Kraft's leadership constitutes one of the greatest long-term, worst-to-first revivals in sports history. In 2005, Forbes magazine valued the Patriots franchise at $1 billion. The Patriots were just the fourth sports franchise in history to eclipse that financial plateau. After winning back-to-back Super Bowls and three titles in four years, Forbes also named the Patriots "The Best Team in Sports."
In 2007, the New England Patriots won a franchise-record fifth consecutive division title. They also became the first NFL team to win 16 games during the regular season and the only team to ever win 18 consecutive games in one season. The undefeated regular season boosted the team's overall record from 2003 to 2007 to 77-17 for a remarkable .819 winning percentage. The 77 wins in five years is the most by any team over any five-year span in NFL history. From Sept. 14, 2003 to Oct. 26, 2008, the Patriots won 82 games with only 18 losses. It marks the most successful 100-game stretch since the league was founded in 1920.
The Kraft-era Patriots also set three significant NFL records for consecutive wins. In 2003 and 2004, the Patriots won 21 consecutive games, which included three playoff games. Two years later, the Patriots started another streak and over the next three seasons won 21 consecutive regular season games. In addition, the Patriots also established an NFL record by winning 10 consecutive playoff games (2001-05). During that time, the Patriots also won 21 consecutive games at Gillette Stadium, the longest home win streak in franchise history.
The success the Patriots sustained during the 2000s is without rival. The Patriots' 126 total victories (including playoffs) was the most by any team in one decade in the 90-year history of the NFL. The recent decade of dominance featured more Super Bowl titles (3), conference titles (4), division titles (7), playoff wins (14), victories in a single season (18) and victories in a regular season (16) than any other team. In addition, no other NFL team hosted more playoff games (9) or played in more playoff games (18) than the New England Patriots. The sustained success earned the franchise "Team of the Decade" acclaim from many publications. GETTING HIS START
Kraft began his business career with the Rand-Whitney Group, Inc. of Worcester, Mass., a company that converted paper into packaging for various industries. He later acquired the company. In 1972, he founded International Forest Products, a trader of paper commodities that now does business annually in more than 90 countries. Together, Rand-Whitney and International Forest Products (IFP) comprise one of the largest privately-owned and fully integrated paper and packaging companies in the United States. In 2011, IFP was the top U.S. containerized exporter in New England and ranked 27th in the nation. Kraft founded The Kraft Group to serve as the holding company for the family's varied business interests, which are concentrated in five specific areas: the distribution of forest products, paper and packaging manufacturing, sports and entertainment, real estate development and private equity and venture investing.
Throughout Kraft's professional career, many of his biggest risks have yielded the greatest rewards. That was true throughout his pursuit of Patriots ownership, beginning in 1985 when he first purchased an option on the land surrounding the old stadium in Foxborough, Mass. It was a large investment for an underdeveloped parcel of land, but proved to be an important first step in a long process toward buying the Patriots. In 1988, he took another step by purchasing the stadium out of bankruptcy court when he purchased the antiquated stadium in Foxborough. But, with a binding lease through 2001, the acquisition of the old stadium proved to be an invaluable asset in Kraft's quest toward owning the team.
When his opportunity came in January of 1994, Kraft faced a difficult business dilemma. He had to decide between committing over $172 million of family resources to purchase the Patriots or accept a lucrative $75 million buyout offer to void the final years of the team's stadium lease and allow the team to move out of New England. On Jan. 21, 1994, Kraft passed on the buyout offer, choosing instead to make an 11th-hour bid to buy the team. On Feb. 26, 1994, a day after Kraft earned league approval, season tickets for the 1994 season went on sale and Patriots fans showed their support for Kraft's decision in record numbers. By the end of the first business day, amidst a winter nor'easter, 5,958 season ticket orders were processed, shattering the previous single-day sales record of 979. The show of support validated Kraft's decision to buy the team and gave him the confidence to focus on another long-term project with great financial risk: the private-financing and construction of Gillette Stadium. BUILDING GILLETTE
From 2000 to 2002, The Kraft Group's real estate development team oversaw the on-time and on-budget construction of Gillette Stadium, a privately-financed $325 million state-of-the-art stadium that the Patriots and their fans are proud to call home. The financial commitment from Kraft provided a solid foundation on which to build for the first time in the franchise's nomadic history. Moving from Foxboro Stadium into the majestic Gillette Stadium marked another worst-to-first transformation for the Krafts, who now operate New England's premier entertainment venue. After opening Gillette Stadium, Kraft was recognized as the Sports Executive of the Year by one national publication and he and Jonathan Kraft were named Sports Industrialists of the Year by another.
The construction of Gillette Stadium was the first project of The Kraft Group's development team. In 2007, The Kraft Group expanded the site development with the construction of Patriot Place, a mixed-use lifestyle center and entertainment destination. LOVE OF SPORTS
Kraft is widely recognized as one of the most successful owners in professional sports. As Chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots, Investor/Operator of the New England Revolution and owner of Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place, Kraft has turned that underdeveloped parcel of land he purchased in 1985 in Foxborough, Mass. into a world-class sports and entertainment destination in New England.
Under Kraft's leadership, the Patriots and the Revolution have delivered three league championships and nine conference titles, while his private-financing of Gillette Stadium has given fans a world-class facility in which to enjoy New England's championship tradition.
Kraft's long-standing support of soccer in the United States dates back to his efforts in the early 1990s to secure Foxborough as one of the nine host venues for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. PERSONAL
A native of Brookline, Mass., Kraft attended local public schools before entering Columbia University on an academic scholarship. Upon graduation, he received a fellowship to attend Harvard Business School, where he earned a master's degree in business administration.
Kraft's love affair with football and the Patriots began decades ago. A Patriots fan since their AFL days in the 1960s, Kraft attended games at each of the team's Boston venues: Boston University Field, Fenway Park, Boston College Alumni Stadium and Harvard Stadium. When the team moved to then Schaefer Stadium in 1971, Kraft invested in season tickets for his family. He credits the memories and experiences shared with his family and other Patriots fans during those years for his passionate pursuit of ownership of the franchise.
Kraft serves on the board of directors for Viacom. He is also on the executive committee for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he established the Robert K. Kraft Family Blood Donor Center. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. He is a trustee emeritus at Columbia and is a trustee at Boston College. He has received 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 received the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award and received the prestigious honor of being inducted into the 231st class of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most learned societies. With his induction, he joined the likes of many other patriots, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Hancock. In 2012, he became the first NFL owner in the 43-year history of the honor to ever be selected to receive the George Halas Award, which is presented annually to the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. He was also inducted into Columbia's athletic hall of fame in 2012. In 2013, he received the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence.
Over the past four decades, the Kraft family has been one of New England's most philanthropic families, donating over $100 million in support of local charities and civic affairs. In 2011, the Krafts pledged $20 million to Partners HealthCare to launch the Kraft Center for Community Health, an initiative designed to improve the leadership of and access to quality health care at community centers in Massachusetts. With success, the model used will expand nationally. 2013 NFL OWNER COMMITTEES
While Kraft gets credit for resurrecting the once wayward Patriots franchise, he's also often cited as a key contributor in many of the league's major contract negotiations. He is the chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee and an active member of four other committees.
- Broadcast Committee - Chairman
- Management Council Executive Committee
- NFL Network Committee
- Finance Committee
- Compensation Committee