As Business of Soccer continues the journey through the MLS owners to highlight those behind the scenes of our beloved clubs, this week’s edition covers two of the most well-known names in all of sports: Kraft and Kroenke.
Kraft Soccer LLC is part of the larger Kraft Group organization that Robert Kraft and his family has built over the years. The Kraft family owns and operates the New England Revolution, who just went on a spirited run to the MLS Cup, ultimately losing out to the LA Galaxy in extra time 2-1. The Krafts are perhaps better known for owning the NFL’s New England Patriots as well as Gillette Stadium, but the family has been a part of MLS since the league’s inaugural season in 1996.
The Kraft Group is also involved in a few other ventures, including paper and packaging as well as real estate, and conducts business in over 80 countries. Robert Kraft, Founder, Chairman & CEO of The Kraft Group, attended undergrad at Columbia University and earned his MBA from Harvard. He founded International Forest Products (IFP) in 1972 which has become one of the largest privately-held paper trading companies in the world. It was with IFP that Kraft began to build his empire, and it was not until he purchased the New England Patriots in 1994 for $175 million that he got into owning and running professional sports teams.
As mentioned above, in addition to the Patriots and Revolution, the Krafts also own Gillette Stadium, which has been a staple for US National Team (Men & Women) matches, and has served as the site for numerous entertainment events.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is the owner/operator for the Colorado Rapids, and is run by Owner & Governor (no, not of a state) E. Stanley Kroenke, worth an estimated $6 billion by Forbes. Kroenke first broke into the sports ownership business when he purchased a 40% share of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams after they relocated to Missouri in 1995 (KSE has since become the principal owner). He then purchased the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in 2000 and has continued adding to his portfolio ever since.
Based in Denver, KSE owns or has investments in the Rapids and Avalanche as already mentioned, as well as the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, and Arsenal Football Club of the Barclays Premier League (29% share). KSE also owns a 50% share of Arsenal Broadband Limited, the company that operates the club’s website, and Kroenke has sat on the club’s board since 2008 as a non-executive director.
KSE’s other business endeavors include Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids, Pepsi Center, home of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Mammoth, Paramount Theatre, 1ST BANK Center, and Altitude Sports. A little known fact about Kroenke is that his wife, Ann Walton Kroenke is worth almost as much as he is, being the niece of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, on whose board Kroenke also sits. KSE purchased the Colorado Rapids from Phil Anschutz in 2004 and MLS are lucky to have KSE among its very impressive list of owners.
As with any business that is starting out, the early years are always difficult financially and require a lot of investment and strategic planning. KSE and The Kraft Group certainly played large roles in lending their business expertise and resources in helping the league develop into what it is today, and the success of their clubs over the league’s history shows that these two groups are committed to the continued growth and development of the game and the league.