Robert Kraft Marks 500 Games as Patriots Owner, Thanks to the King of Pop
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reach a major milestone this Sunday when the Pats visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sunday’s game marks Kraft’s 500th game as team owner, and it will come as no surprise that he has been the most successful owner in the NFL since he purchased the team in 1994.
No other owner has won six Super Bowls. Kraft also leads NFL owners in wins (341), division titles (19), winning percentage (.683), playoff wins (33) and playoff seasons (22), according to the Patriots media staff.
Who does Kraft have most to thank for all of his success? Is it longtime head coach Bill Belichick? Is it future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady?
Sure, they each played a very big part in the Patriots’ success, but Kraft also has one other person to thank: the late Michael Jackson.
Kraft had a vision for the team long before he became its owner, buying up the land around then-Sullivan Stadium in 1985 and eventually buying the stadium itself in 1988.
He was able to buy the stadium – and he also made an unsuccessful bid for the team at that time – because owner Billy Sullivan was forced to sell after the financial hit his family took, after son Chuck promoted the Jacksons’ 1984 “Victory” tour and the Sullivans used the stadium as collateral for the tour, which proved to be a financial disaster, especially when superstar Michael Jackson had trouble getting along with his brothers on the tour.
Kraft used the team’s lease with the stadium to keep the next two team owners, Victor Kiam and James Orthwein, from being able to move the Patriots out of Foxboro.
In 1994, Kraft bought the Patriots franchise from Orthwein for $172 million, the highest price paid for an NFL team at that time, despite the Pats posting a record of 19-61 over the previous five seasons.
Of course, Kraft wasn’t always beloved during his tenure as owner; the 1998 flirtation with moving the team to Hartford, Connecticut led to a lot of detractors, although some believe that was just a power play to get the wheels moving on what would eventually become Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place.
Others thought Kraft had lost his mind when he gave up a first-round draft pick to the New York Jets to sign Belichick, who had just resigned “as HC of the NYJ,” as he famously wrote on a cocktail napkin, after just a day on the job.
The Jets parlayed that first-round pick into two-time Pro Bowler Shaun Ellis. The Patriots went on to win six championships. It’s fair to say that deal worked out better for New England.