Kraft Looking Forward To A New Season
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)
TV camera zooms in on the owner's box. Robert Kraft is inside,
surrounded by family and friends. It's a familiar sight at New England Patriots
And Myra was always there, seated beside her
husband. He first spotted her at a Boston deli 49 years ago and married
her 16 months later. Now another NFL season is starting, but without
the ''sweetheart'' of the man lauded for helping to save football in
her final days.
Someone else will be in her seat, Kraft says,
perhaps one of his four sons or eight grandchildren. But, for him, she
will always be there.
''We thought about leaving it empty, but I
think it was collectively felt it would be a downer,'' he said. ''My
sweetheart is with me and forever will be.''
Less than two
months after his wife died of cancer, Kraft sits in his office,
surrounded by photos from a rich life: dancing with Jackie Kennedy
Onassis; posing with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and the
Super Bowl trophy; meeting with then-president Vladimir Putin of Russia
in a St. Petersburg palace.
Hanging behind his desk are four black-and-white portraits of each of
friends are many and diverse: Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, the Dalai
Lama. Elton John performed their wedding song, ''Moon River,'' in
person at the Krafts' 40th anniversary celebration and, when Myra died,
sent a tall white orchid that adorns Kraft's office. The Patriots boss
even likes Albert
Then there's Tony, the cleaning man.
remember when I was running a plant and I used to stay late at night
and the guy who used to clean it. Tony,'' said Kraft, who worked for
his wealthy father-in-law's company that made packaging materials. ''He
had one tooth and he used to sweep the floors and the bathroom.
always come in and chat and I was just out of Harvard Business School.
He didn't have book smarts, but he was a smart guy. And I used to tell
him my problems. And, you know, he gave me good advice. So you can
learn from everyone. In our family, we try to treat everyone the same,
as long as they're people of character. I've got this thing. You only
hang out with good people. You get the turkeys out of your life.''
employees are important to him, whether it's those in his companies
that do business in 91 countries or on his football team in the locker
room a few floors below his office. That team begins its season Monday
night at the Miami
Saturday and Bob Kraft July 25, 2011. (Photo: Robb Carr/Getty Images)
''If I was on the field stretching
before a game he'd always start with, '54, how we doing today?' '' said
Tedy Bruschi, a Patriots linebacker for his entire 13-year career.
''Whenever you see him talking to guys on the sideline during practice,
he always has his arm around the player or the player has his arm
around him. That's just the way the guys feel about Mr. Kraft.''
flash back to that big right arm of Jeff Saturday,
captured in a
picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words moment at the announcement on July 25
that the lockout was over. The 70-year-old Kraft's wife of 48 years had
died just five days earlier at the age of 68.
The Indianapolis Colts
center, a key negotiator, put that arm around
Kraft, who rested his lowered head on Saturday's chest.
''Without him, this deal does not get done,'' Saturday said. ''He's a
man who helped us save football.''
Is Kraft embarrassed by all the praise he's received?
''Nobody's perfect,'' he said.
He has a simple philosophy - no deal is a good deal if it's bad for
never try to do a deal that isn't good for both sides,'' he said,
''because if you do a good deal with people they'll bring you more
deals and things just come your way.''
It's inevitable in
business that feelings get bruised. Richard Seymour
was upset that, a
few days before the 2009 season, he was traded to Oakland. Bill
Parcells took parting shots at Kraft when he resigned as coach after
the 1996 season.
But Seymour attended Myra Kraft's funeral. And
Parcells said this year that he regrets the way he departed and would
do things differently.
''We've tried to create a family
environment and atmosphere here,'' Kraft said, but ''it's a business so
sometimes some members of the environment have to leave.''
Seymour #93 of the New England Patriots celebrates against the
Pittsburgh Steelers Sept 25, 2005 (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Pantuck Bialkin knew Kraft long before he became one of the NFL's most
influential owners and the winner of three Super Bowls. She met him
when both were in eighth grade, before he was wealthy. They were very
good friends throughout their time at Brookline High School and stayed
in touch when he went on to Columbia.
''He had a lot of friends.
He was president of our class so everybody liked him,'' she said. ''He
was just a regular guy. He's still a regular guy, a decent person. To
me, he's still Bobby.''
Kraft still attends his high-school
reunions every five years, she said, the last at the 50-year mark in
2009. But he couldn't go out for the school's football team because
games were on the Sabbath when Orthodox Jews are not permitted to play.
His father was a dressmaker and didn't own a car. He wanted Robert to
be a rabbi.
But Kraft was fascinated by business at an early age
and eventually played football as a college freshman. Now the kid who
watched a black-and-white Dumont television at home is chairman of the
NFL Broadcast Committee. His father-in-law was a noted philanthropist
and he and Myra continued that generosity.
The family plans to
contribute $2 million to the nearly $4 million already donated to the
Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston's Myra Kraft Giving Back Scholarship
Fund created after her death.
''It's true that he married Myra
and got into her family business,'' Bialkin said, ''but he really made
it from there. With his brains and his ambition, he really made a go of
Kraft eventually bought out his father-in-law's
company, then started International Forest Products in 1972, a firm
involved with packaging and recycling.
His father left him ''an ethical will,'' Kraft said.
told me that the most precious asset you could earn is a good name and
try to pass that on,'' he said, ''but each generation has to earn it on
their own. So the mantra of our family and with my kids and my
grandkids is we try to teach them to get along with all kinds of
Kraft came to Foxborough as a passionate fan, an owner
of Patriots season tickets from their first season there in 1971. For
more than a decade he pursued ownership of the team he finally bought
England Patriots owner Robert Kraft & Tom Brady 12/20/09
(Photot: Luc Leclerc-US PRESSWIRE)
Myra thought the $172 million price, a record for an
NFL franchise at the time, might hurt the couple's charitable giving.
If he ran the franchise right, he told her, their contributions would
increase. The franchise was valued this year at $1.4 billion by Forbes
magazine. The giving has grown.
But he's not as eager to pay lawyers. They even may have held up
settlement of the lockout.
isn't always in their interests to have things go smoothly,'' Kraft
said in his soft-spoken but straight-talking manner. ''Their best
interests are served by a little turmoil, and their billable hours go
On Oct. 1, Kraft will be inducted into the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Mass., an organization
started by a group including John Hancock and John Adams - ''the
original Patriots,'' he said.
''The induction is the day before
we play (at) Oakland,'' he said. ''Normally I'd go out there
(Saturday), but I won't be able to go out till Sunday morning.''
For Kraft, there always seems to be a football connection. For the
players, their connection to Kraft is special.
made me feel a part of the family,'' said Chad Ochocinco, a
since being traded July 28 from the Cincinnati
difference I enjoy is having an owner that I can actually talk to. He's
very accessible. It makes you feel wanted.''
Kraft had his players and coaches with their family members at his home
on Cape Cod for a relaxing day. There were magicians and games for the
Kraft also has a personal touch with other owners. On Dec.
28, 2008, after the Patriots' season-ending 13-0 win at Buffalo, he
visited Carolina Panthers
owner Jerry Richardson, who was awaiting a
''After the Patriots had a 1 o'clock game, he
flew all the way down to Charlotte to comfort me and encourage me,''
said Richardson, who had the transplant on Feb. 2, 2009.
On Thursday night, another NFL season begins when New Orleans visits
Green Bay. Kraft's team plays four days later.
very excited going into his 18th season as an owner, a season he once
thought might not be played because of the lockout. He can sit and
cheer - with those dear to him all around - in his owner's box after an
offseason that was painful on a professional and personal level.
football this year is sort of like a savior. I was just out at
practice. I love these guys down there in the locker room,'' he said.
''For me, it's a real treat to be around here and see them. It fills
part of my vacuum, so I'm excited about football being back.''
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