Before Robert Kraft turned a downtrodden, money-losing football team into the NFL’s best franchise, he acquired it in a most ingenious way. I know of no other owner in any of the major sports who bought a team, its stadium and nearby real estate the same way as Kraft–and the foresight and tenacity in which he acquired these assets enabled the him to build a team worth $2.6 billion–second-most valuable among the league’s 32 teams.
His purchase of the Patriots and the team’s success on the gridiron–seven Super Bowl appearances and four Lombardi Trophies–is a reflection of his beliefs.
In 1985, Kraft bought a ten-year option on 300 acres surrounding Sullivan Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, from a group of over a dozen Boston businessmen. Terms: Kraft would pay $1 million a year to lease the land and would also have first dibs to buy the land during the 10-year term for $16 million (many articles say $18 million but Kraft told me $16 million).
Image credit: AP Photo/Gregory Payan

In 1986, Victor Kiam bought the Patriots without the stadium from the Sullivan family for $87 million.
Then, in 1988, Kraft and a partner paid a bankruptcy court $25 million for Sullivan Stadium–a decrepit building built for just $6.7 million in 1971 (in 1993, Kraft bought out his stadium partner for a small premium, placing Kraft’s total price for complete ownership at about $27 million). But this was a clever purchase because the stadium came with an operating covenant that required the Patriots to play there until 2001.
In 1992, Kiam sold the team to James Busch Orthwein  for $110 million (Kiam was in debt and Orthwein was one of his creditors). In 1993, Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to get out of his lease at what was now named Foxboro Stadium. Kraft refused. Even without the team, his option on the land and ownership of the stadium was generating Kraft $2 million a year in revenue from parking and concessions.
In 1994, Kraft bought the football team for $172 million (believe the deal consisted of $158 million paid to Orthwein plus assumption of $14 million of debt) from James Busch Orthwein–the highest price ever paid for a sports team at that time (a group that was put together, which included Kraft’s son Jonathan, to determine a reasonable price for the team alone came up with $115 million. Kraft …Read More