Unlike many owners of professional sport franchises Robert Kraft was not born into wealth. In fact Kraft was born in Massachusetts in the year 1941 into an orthodox Jewish family, his dad was a simple dress manufacturer and his parents were planning on grooming him to be a rabbi. But Robert Kraft had other ideas. After graduating from Columbia University on a scholarship, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Kraft first ventured into the business world by working for his father-in-law at the Rand-Whitney Group, which was a paper and packaging manufacturing company. Kraft ascended to the top of the company and was able to perform a leveraged buyout to gain control in 1968. He then decided to create his own company, International Forest Products, which traded paper commodities. This company was very successful.
Once Kraft had some money to his name he started to grow his fortune. He invested in New England Television Corp and joined the board in 1983. He later became the president of the company in 1986. He seemed to rise to the top of any company he got involved in.
Kraft always had a strong passion for sports, and it was a dream of his to own a professional sports team. In 1988 Kraft outbid all his competitors to buy the Patriot's Stadium (Foxboro Stadium). This took Patriot's owner at the time Victor Kiam by surprise. Owning the team but not the stadium was financially devastating for Kiam who sold the team to James Orthwein in 1992. Orthwein's plan was to move the Patriots to St. Louis, his hometown, he even had a team named picked out, the St. Louis Stallions. However because Kraft still owned the rights to the stadium, he was in Orthwein's way. In 1994 Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of his lease on Foxboro stadium, what happened next changed the NFL and the history of football. Kraft made a counter-offer of $175 million to buy the team - Orthwein accepted the offer and this became the largest transaction to buy an NFL team of all time.
Patriot's fans were so happy Kraft saved the team from moving that for the first time in franchise history they sold out every game in 1994, and every game since has been sold out. Kraft built a new stadium (Gillette Stadium) that opened 2002. Since Kraft took over, the Patriots have been the most successful NFL team by far, and they have 4 Super Bowls to show for it.
Kraft has also used his success with the Patriots to expand his business ventures. He created "The Kraft Group" as a company to hold all of these business ventures together. In addition to paper and packaging manufacturing/international forest products "The Kraft Group" also manages:
- "sports, entertainment and event management,"
- "construction and real estate development"
- "private equity and venture investing"
Kraft has embraced philanthropy strongly. He is very involved in the entire New England community. Kraft has donated over $100 million dollars to a variety of philanthropy causes.
Robert Kraft has lived a long, and remarkable life, leaving everlasting marks on the business world, the NFL, his family, and the community. According to Forbes Kraft is now worth $4.8 billion dollars, a true king of sports and life.