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Timeline: The life of Robert Kraft

1950-51

Sells newspapers outside the Boston Braves’ ballpark.

May 1963

Graduates from Columbia with a bachelor of arts degree in history and economics. Class president, president of his fraternity (Zeta Beta Tau) and a two-year football letterman (running back and safety).

June 1963

Marries Myra Nathalie Hiatt

1965

Earns master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

Summer 1965

Joins Worcester, Mass.-based Rand-Whitney, a packaging company controlled by his father-in-law, Jacob Hiatt.

August 1968

Buys 50% of Hiatt’s interest in Rand-Whitney.

November 1968

Elected chairman of the Newton (Mass.) Democratic City Committee.

1971

Buys New England Patriots season tickets as the team moves into its new Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough.

1972

Takes complete control of Rand-Whitney, founds International Forest Products and combines the two businesses. 

Kraft, with player/coach Roy Emerson (right) in 1976, headed the WTT’s Boston Lobsters.ap images

1975

Leads an investment group that forms the World TeamTennis Boston Lobsters. The team, which at one point included Martina Navratilova, folds in 1978.

1983

Becomes director and chairman of the New England Television Corp.

1984

Establishes the Kraft Family Blood Lab at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

1985

Signs a 10-year lease, with an option to buy, on Foxboro Raceway, a horse track adjacent to the Patriots’ Sullivan Stadium. The deal prevents Patriots founder and owner Billy Sullivan from holding non-team events at the stadium while races are being held.

1988

Bid to buy the Patriots from the financially strapped Sullivan fails. However, along with real estate developer Steve Karp, he buys the no-frills stadium out of bankruptcy court from Sullivan for $25 million, and locks the team into a lease through 2001.

1990

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, says the Patriots’ stadium is “the least suitable facility in the NFL.”

1991

Uses the stadium lease to block Patriots owner Victor Kiam’s attempt to move the team to Jacksonville.

January 1992

James Orthwein buys the Patriots with plans to move the team to his native St. Louis, and rename them the Stallions.

March 1992

Kraft’s support of U.S. soccer is rewarded, as Foxboro Stadium is selected as one of the nine host venues for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The company later became the only organization to host FIFA Women’s World Cup matches in both 1999 and 2003.

June 1993

A proposed $700 million development that would have housed a new downtown convention center and a 70,000-seat domed stadium — dubbed the Boston Megaplex — fails to win support among Massachusetts elected officials.

December 1993

Buys out Karp to own 100% of the stadium. Rejects a $75 million offer from Orthwein to be bought out of the stadium lease. Future St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke also fails in a similar attempt.

1994

Buys the Patriots for $172 million, the highest price ever paid for an NFL team at the time. Jeremy Jacobs, CEO of the Boston Garden and Boston Bruins, had been among the bidders for the club and the stadium.

Kraft bought the Patriots from James Orthwein in 1994.getty images

1995

Becomes the founding investor/operator of the New England Revolution, part of the 1996 debut of the 10-team Major League Soccer.

1996

Plans for a privately funded, $200 million stadium on a mostly vacant waterfront parcel in South Boston are met with significant neighborhood opposition, based largely on the fear that a stadium would add further traffic woes to an already congested Southie.

November 18, 1998

Acquires operating control of the MLS San Jose Clash.

November 19, 1998

Signs a conditional agreement with Hartford to move the Patriots to a proposed $374 million taxpayer-funded downtown stadium, as part of the city’s $1 billion Adriaen’s Landing development. The state promises to pay for any unsold luxury boxes or club seats for the first 30 years of the stadium’s existence. The Massachusetts legislature responds and agrees to pay what became $72 million for infrastructure costs, clearing the way for a privately funded stadium development in Foxborough.

1999

$200,000 donation seeds construction of Kraft Stadium, an American football venue in Jerusalem.

January 2000

Hires Bill Belichick as Patriots head coach.

March 2000

Construction begins on the new stadium, designed by HOK Sport (now Populous) and built by Skanska. It is the only NFL stadium with 100% of the facility, land and parking costs paid for privately and 100% of the infrastructure costs reimbursed to the public by the team.

April 2000

Lead gift of nearly $15 million helps fund construction of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life at Columbia University.

August 2000

Andover, Mass.-based internet incubator CMGI signs one of the richest naming-rights deals in history to put its moniker on the under-construction stadium. The 15-year, $120 million partnership crumbled, however, as the company’s stock plummeted 98% by the time the venue opened. The Revolution played 10 games while the building was CMGI Stadium, but no brand has had its name on a sports venue for a shorter period of time.

2001

Helps broker a 10-year, $250 million deal for Canton, Mass.-based Reebok, run by his longtime friend Paul Fireman, to serve as the NFL’s exclusive uniform supplier.

August 2002

Boston-based Gillette puts its name on the stadium as the NFL preseason begins.

December 2002

Named Sports Business Journal’s Sports Executive of the Year.

2006

Named the recipient of the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, presented annually to a former NCAA student athlete “for whom competitive athletics in college and attention to physical well-being after graduation have been important factors in a distinguished career of national significance and achievement.”

October 2007

Columbia announces that the playing field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium will be named Robert K. Kraft Field

November 2007

Patriot Place, a mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium, opens. The 350-acre site now consists of more than 60 businesses, including the CBS Sporting Club restaurant, Bass Pro Shop, Topgolf and a Splitsville bowling center.

June 2011

$20 million donation to Partners Health Care, a Boston-based nonprofit hospital and physicians network, helps launch The Kraft Center for Community Health Leadership.

July 20, 2011

Myra dies from ovarian cancer, at the age of 68. The 2011 Patriots season was dedicated to her, and fans held signs with her initials (MHK) at the games.

Myra and Robert Kraft were married for 48 years until her death.getty images

July 26, 2011

Credited by the league and the players as being the key cog in securing a 10-year labor agreement, ending a 135-day lockout.

October 2011

Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, along with singer-songwriter Paul Simon.

2012

Becomes the first NFL owner to receive the Pro Football Writers Association’s George Halas Award.

2013

Receives the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence.

2015

Publicly disputes the findings of the league’s ‘Deflategate” 243-page Ted Wells Report, which led to a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, a $1 million fine, and forfeiture of the team’s 2016 first-round and 2017 fourth-round draft picks, describing it as “ambiguous circumstantial evidence.”

May 2016

Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR), an analytics technology platform and consultative services company in the sports and entertainment industry, is launched.

June 2016

Announces that discussions are underway with UMass Boston about the possibility of building a soccer stadium on waterfront land owned by the Boston school on the grounds of the old Bayside Expo Center. The plan was abandoned a year later.

October 2016

Inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

June 2017

$6 million gift helps build the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem.

July 17, 2017

Named honorary chairman of the board of the United Bid Committee of Canada, Mexico and the United States, and helped secure the 2026 FIFA World Cup for North America.

October 2017

Unveils Boston Uprising, an esports franchise in Overwatch League’s new professional circuit.

January 2019

Becomes a founding partner in creating the Reform Alliance, a foundation “focused on American criminal justice reform through changing laws, policies, hearts and minds to reduce the number of long-term incarcerations resulting from minor probation and parole violations.” Other partners include Philadelphia 76ers partner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin and Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai.

February 2019

Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history.

April 2019

Announces that the company will likely invest $400 million to build a new soccer stadium complex, although the site is still to be determined.

April 2020

Donates AirKraft, one of two Boeing 767-300ERs that serve as the company’s team planes, to transport more than 1 million N95 protective masks from China to the United States. The Kraft family reportedly pays roughly $2 million to help with the costs. During the pandemic, Kraft provided the stadium as a site for blood drives and drive-thru COVID testing and vaccinations. He also purchased Chromebooks for Boston Public Schools to allow students without computers to attend classes virtually.

October 2020

Sells 285,704 of his DraftKings shares, which is slightly more than 10% of his holdings in the company.

March 2021

The NFL secures a record $110 billion in new media rights contracts; in a videoconference with team owners, Commissioner Roger Goodell singles out Kraft for praise for getting the deal done.

June 2021

JPMorgan Chase & Co. buys a stake in KAGR.

October 2021

Invests in Drive by DraftKings, a venture capital firm backed by Boston-based online sports-betting operator DraftKings Inc. The Jones family of the Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy are also part of the network.

December 10, 2021

Announces a $225 million stadium renovation.

December 15, 2021

Joins Oxygen Esports to launch a Call of Duty League franchise.

March 2022

News breaks that Kraft and Dr. Dana Blumberg, an ophthalmologist, are engaged.

April 2022

A $24 million donation to the Harvard Business School leads to the establishment of the Robert K. Kraft Family Fellowship Fund, “which will benefit promising young leaders with high potential but limited means to attend HBS.”

— Compiled by David Broughton

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