Kraft, Robert K.

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KRAFT, ROBERT K. (1942– ), owner of the National Football League's New England Patriots as well as Major League Soccer's New England Revolution. Kraft, who grew up in Brookline, Mass., graduated from Columbia College in 1963, and received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1965. Kraft began his business career with the Rand-Whitney Group, Inc. of Worcester, Mass., a company he later acquired. In 1972, he founded International Forest Products, a trader of paper commodities that does business in more than 80 countries. Rand-Whitney and International Forest Products comprise one of the largest privately owned paper and packaging companies in the United States. In 1998, he founded the Kraft Group to serve as the holding company for the family's varied business interests, including the Rand-Whitney Group, Rand-Whitney Containerboard, International Forest Products, the New England Revolution, as well as a portfolio of more than 30 private equity investments.

In 1985, Kraft took out a 10-year option on the 300 acres surrounding Foxboro Stadium, where the New England Patriots played, which gave him access to all stadium parking. By 1988 he had bought the stadium, and then six years later he purchased the team for $172 million, then the highest price for a sports franchise in history. He built a new stadium to replace Foxboro, with $325 million of his own money invested in the state-of-the-art Gillette Stadium. Kraft was heavily criticized for offering a first-round draft choice to acquire head coach Bill Belichick in 2000, but he was vindicated with three Super Bowl Championships in the ensuing four years. Since taking ownership in 1994, no nfl team has won as many conference championships or more Super Bowl championships than the Patriots.

Kraft is also heavily involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors, both in the United States and Israel. He and his wife, Myra, are ardent supporters of Jewish education in the Boston area, and also donated the $11 million to build the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life at Columbia University. They also created the Kraft-Hiatt Fund, a joint endowment fund through which gifts to Holy Cross and Brandeis University are used to encourage greater understanding between Christians and Jews.

Kraft is the primary shareholder of the $40-million Carmel Container Systems in Caesarea, Israel, the largest export packaging plant in the country. In 1999, he built the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, which became home field for American Flag Football in Israel.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]