President, The Kraft Group
Jonathan A. Kraft is the president for The Kraft Group, the holding company of the Kraft family’s varied business interests. The Kraft Group businesses are concentrated in five specific areas: the distribution of forest products, paper and packaging manufacturing, sports and entertainment, real estate development and private equity and venture investing. Kraft is responsible for overseeing the operations of each division.
In its sports and entertainment division, The Kraft Group’s holdings include the three-time world champion New England Patriots and the four-time conference champion New England Revolution, as well as Gillette Stadium, the world-class venue that both franchises call home. As the President of the Patriots, Kraft has been the day-to-day driving force behind the rebuilding and rebranding of the franchise since 1994, bringing long-overdue stability to the once wayward organization. It has been a remarkable transformation, as the Patriots have evolved from worst to first in many categories, both on and off the field.
In the first 19 years of the Kraft family’s ownership, the Patriots have won more games and more often than any other NFL team. In the past decade, the Patriots set multiple NFL records and earned “Team of the Decade” acclaim from multiple publications. During the first decade of the 2000s, the Patriots established three NFL consecutive win streak records with a 10-game win streak in the postseason, a 21-game overall win streak (including playoff games) and a 21-game regular season win streak. Overall, the Patriots won 126 games during the decade, the most by any NFL team in one decade in the 92-year history of the league. The Patriots also became just the second team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years and finished the decade with more Super Bowl titles (3), conference titles (4), division titles (7), playoff wins (14), victories in a single season (18) and victories in a regular season (16) than any other team. During that time (2001-10), the Patriots won 121 regular season games and 135 games overall, the most by any franchise during any 10-year span in NFL history.
Of all the team’s recent achievements, arguably the most significant contribution to the organization’s future success was securing financial approval for the construction of a new world-class stadium, the first of its kind in the franchise’s history. Kraft developed the creative private-financing strategy for the $325 million construction of Gillette Stadium. Many financial experts dismissed the viability of his plan, which relied on year-round club memberships for new clientele rather than the more conventional sale of private seat licenses to existing season ticket holders. Kraft’s unprecedented plan was considered a financial risk, but proved to be universally successful.
Throughout the stadium initiative, no one was more involved in each phase of the project, including the planning, construction, opening and ongoing operation and development of Gillette Stadium. Kraft worked closely with stadium designers to create a world-class sports and entertainment facility that would highlight features indigenous to New England. His team not only delivered on the promise of a fan-friendly facility, but did so on time and under budget.
Prior to the Kraft family’s ownership, the Patriots fan base was limited in range and scope. As a lifelong Patriots fan, Kraft was committed to expanding the Patriots’ audiences through an innovative multimedia outreach. Under his directive, the Patriots became the first professional sports team to launch an official Web site in March of 1995. Just two years later, the team debuted the first use of streaming video, offering a nightly video update. Since then, streaming video has been a constant feature on the team’s Web site. The technology is also used to broadcast live feeds of every Patriots press conference. The Patriots’ other Internet initiatives include a highly successful e-commerce division, providing Patriots fans around the world easy access to Patriots merchandise and apparel. In 2004, the team showed their commitment to globalizing the Patriots brand when they launched the NFL’s first Chinese-language version of their website. Entering the 2013 season, the Patriots had 174 registered fan clubs in 32 countries.
The Patriots are also among the top NFL teams in the NFL in terms of social media presence, with more than 4 million Facebook fans and more than 700,000 Twitter followers. As chair of the league’s digital committee, Kraft continues to seek innovative ways to enhance the day of game experience for all of our fans. In 2012, Gillette Stadium featured one of the league’s first in-bowl WiFi solutions so fans could stay connected throughout the game on their mobile devices.
A Williams College graduate, Kraft also earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. He is on the board of trustees for several organizations, including Williams College and Belmont Hill School. He also serves on the Dean’s Board of Advisors at Harvard Business School and is on the board of director for Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. In 2006, Kraft was the recipient of the Warner Award, named after Glenn S. “Pop” Warner. The award is presented annually and is considered Pop Warner’s highest national honor.