Biggest 180s: Robert Kraft buys the Patriots

Scott McLaughlin
January 28, 2019 - 1:35 pm
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Twenty-five years ago, on Jan. 21, 1994, New England Patriots history changed forever. That was the day Robert Kraft bought the team for which he’d been a season ticket-holder since 1971, ensuring the Patriots would remain in Foxboro after years of uncertainty and rumors of relocation.

The road to Kraft saving the Patriots really began in 1985, when he acquired the horse racing track next to Sullivan Stadium (later renamed Foxboro Stadium) as well as parking around the stadium. That paved the way for him to then buy the stadium itself out of bankruptcy in 1988.

Kraft also bid to buy the team in 1988 as the Sullivan family was forced to sell after a series of financial missteps, but he was outbid by Victor Kiam. Kiam reportedly wanted to move the Patriots out of Foxboro, with Hartford, St. Louis, Baltimore and Jacksonville all rumored as destinations. But Kraft refused to let the franchise break its lease with Foxboro Stadium, which ran through 2001.

Kiam then turned around and sold the team in 1992 to St. Louis businessman James Orthwein, and rumors began immediately that Orthwein was looking to move the team to St. Louis. Less than two years later, he offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the Foxboro Stadium lease and clear the way for relocation. Kraft rejected the offer. 

Uninterested in keeping the team in Foxboro long-term, Orthwein decided to sell the team, putting the Patriots on the market for the third time in six years. Kraft decided enough was enough and went all-in on his hometown team. He bought the Patriots from Orthwein for $172 million, at that time the highest price ever paid for an NFL franchise.

The rest, as they say, is history. We all know what the Patriots have done in the 25 years since Kraft bought them: 20 playoff appearances, 18 AFC East titles, 10 AFC championships, and five Super Bowls -- with possibly a sixth coming up Sunday.

There’s plenty of credit to go around when it comes to that success -- obviously Bill Belichick and Tom Brady deserve a lot of it -- but it’s likely none of it ever happens without Kraft buying the team and keeping it in Foxboro.

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