24 Jan GETTING TO KNOW NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS OWNER ROBERT “BOB” KRAFT
Name: Robert Kenneth Kraft
Born: June 5, 1941 (age 75), Brookline, MA
Net worth: 5.2 billion USD (2017) Forbes
Spouse: Myra Kraft (m. 1963–2011)
Alma mater: Columbia University (BA) & Harvard University (MBA)
Net worth US $ 5.2 billion (September 2016)
Robert Kraft is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group,
based in Foxborough, Mass. The Kraft Group is the holding company of
the Kraft family’s many businesses, including the New England
Patriots, the New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place,
International Forest Products, Rand-Whitney Group, Rand-Whitney
Containerboard and a portfolio of more than 100 private equity
Kraft began his business career with the Rand-Whitney Group, Inc. of
Worcester, Mass. In 1972, he founded International Forest Products
(IFP), a trader of paper commodities that now does business in more
than 90 countries. IFP has consistently ranked in the top 20 overall
exporters in North America according to the annual rankings published
by The Journal of Commerce.
Kraft is widely recognized as one of the most successful owners in
professional sports. As Chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots,
combined with the New England Revolution, Kraft changed the culture of
professional sports in New England by delivering 12 conference titles
and four league championships in the past 18 years. Since 1994, the
Patriots have won more games, including playoff games (24), division
titles (14), conference titles (7) and Super Bowls (4) than any other
team in the NFL. Kraft also has the only privately financed
world-class sports and entertainment complex with the construction of
Gillette Stadium with no personal seat licenses and Patriot Place.
Last season the New England Patriots observed a moment of silence
before their NFL game against the Buffalo Bills to memorialize Ezra
Schwartz, the Jewish 18-year-old from Sharon, Massachusetts, who was
killed last week by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank.
The honor at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, was just
one of the many Jewish acts of charity by Patriots owner Robert Kraft,
who may be as well-known in Jewish circles for his generosity and
devotion to Jewish and Israeli causes as for the exploits of his NFL
Over decades, the Kraft family has given away more than $100 million
to a variety of causes, including health care, education, the Jewish
community and local needs.
Here’s where some of Kraft’s Jewish gifts have gone in recent years:
There’s hardly a Jewish institution in the Boston area that hasn’t
benefited from Kraft’s largesse, starting with the local federation,
Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which in 2013 was the single-largest
recipient of funding from the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation.
Among the other local Jewish institutions Kraft supports have been his
late wife’s alma mater, Brandeis University, as well as Jewish
schools, Jewish family services and synagogues. Kraft grew up in
Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, where his father, Harry
Kraft, taught Hebrew school, and now attends Temple Emanuel in Newton,
The Hillel center of Columbia University and Barnard College is housed
in the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, so named for the family
that donated the building, which stands out in the Manhattan
neighborhood for its limestone façade typical of buildings in
Jerusalem. Kraft, who graduated Columbia College in 1963, also gave $5
million several years ago to help support Columbia athletics. Not that
it’s helped the Columbia Lions, who recently went two straight years
without winning a single football game. Kraft and his family also have
endowed chairs in Jewish studies at Boston College and the College of
the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and endowed a chair in
Christian studies at Brandeis.
The artificial-turf athletic field near the main entrance to
Jerusalem, the Kraft Family Stadium, is a Kraft gift that’s used for
soccer, baseball and, yes, football. Kraft’s late wife, Myra Kraft,
also supported the Israeli women’s national flag football team and
Ethiopian immigrant absorption in Israel. The Krafts were instrumental
in developing the sister city partnership between Haifa, Israel, and
Boston and have sent numerous Patriots players to the Jewish state.
Most recently, Pats wide receiver Julian Edelman went to Israel this
summer. In November 2016 he donated $6million dollars to create the
Kraft family sports campus in Yerushalayim.
Where has Kraft been giving recently?
In 2013, the last year for which data is publicly available, the
Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation gave its top gifts to CJP –
Boston’s Jewish federation ($1.12 million), and to Brandeis ($1.1
million), Myra Kraft’s alma mater. The foundation’s next-largest gift
that year, $350,000, went to Columbia. Other Jewish beneficiaries
among the 28 recipients that received more than $25,000 included
$93,000 to the Jerusalem Foundation for athletic activities; $50,000
to Columbia’s Hillel; $50,000 to the World Jewish Congress (American
section); $35,000 to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and
$31,036 to Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts.
Kraft also gave $25,000 each to American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot,
the Diaspora museum in Tel Aviv; the America-Israel Friendship League;
the Anti-Defamation League; Jewish Vocational Services in Boston; the
Middle East Media Research Institute; the Foundation for Ethnic
Understanding, and UJA-Federation of New York.
Smaller gifts went to the Jewish Book Council ($22,333), Jewish
Theological Seminary ($20,000), the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach
County ($11,200); American Jewish Committee ($10,000), Jewish Family &
Children’s Services in Waltham, Massachusetts ($10,000) and Friends of
Yemin Orde ($10,000).
Chabad of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Boston Jewish film festival and
Kehillath Israel in Brookline were among the Jewish recipients under
the $10,000 level.
Last year Robert Kraft spoke at the Yeshiva University commencement.
His message to graduates of Yeshiva University was simple: dream big
and make the world better every day. In his commencement address to
the class of 2016, Robert stressed the importance of chasing your
“wildly improbable” dreams and making a positive impact daily, even if
some days it is a small token of kindness.
“I’m not a Starbucks guy. I’m a Dunkin Donuts guy, but I like to pay
for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line,” he said. “It
typically costs me less than $10 and makes the other people feel good,
but more importantly it makes me feel so good, and random acts of
kindness change the world one person at a time.”
While Robert touched on the small ways the graduating class can make
their “corner of the world” better, he also spoke to the importance of
not giving up, even if the odds are against you. That is something he
knows a thing or two about.
His dream? Owning the New England Patriots.
“A number of factors made that dream wildly improbable. No. 1: I
didn’t come from money. No. 2: I had no connection to the world of
professional sports or the people in it. No. 3: Some of the greatest
NFL teams are never sold … Yet I used to sit in the stands of the old
Foxboro Stadium with my sons on Sunday afternoon, and it struck me how
the team was mismanaged,” he said. “Sitting there in the stands, I
would dream of what our family would do if we only had a chance to own
the team. As I said, it was wildly improbably that we would get to own
it, but not impossible.”
We all know that not-quite-impossible dream came to fruition, and 21
years and four Lombardi trophies later, it’s still going.
Among his closing words, Robert challenged the graduates of Yeshiva to
do the same, to push themselves and to see beyond the small picture.
“Think big. Make it a wildly improbable dream that motivates you, one
that wakes you up in the morning ready to attack your day, to
persevere and persist until you accomplish it,” he said. “Dream a big
dream, a bold dream. Don’t play conservatively between the 40 yard
lines. Don’t just play it safe.”