Billionaire Bob Kraft says he’s sticking with the buy-and-hold model when it comes to the New England Patriots.

Kraft, one of the NFL’s most influential owners, bought the team in 1994 for $172 million—at the time the highest price ever paid for a professional football franchise. Now, after winning six Super Bowl titles with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots are one of the league’s most valuable teams, worth an estimated $6.7 billion, according to Sportico.

But even as sports franchises across the world fetch higher and higher prices—the less successful Washington Commanders recently sold for $6 billion—Kraft, 82, said in an interview taped for “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer to Peer Conversations” that he wants to keep the team in his family.

“Never in my lifetime,” Kraft said. “And I hope my children keep it going as well because it’s such a unique asset.” 

Kraft, 82, has a net worth of $8.2 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s CEO and Chairman of Kraft Group, the umbrella organization for the family’s businesses. He grew up in the Boston suburb of Brookline, with football as his favorite sport.

Kraft said he couldn't participate in football in high school because he and his family observed the Jewish Sabbath, but he played at Columbia College while on a full academic scholarship. After graduating from Harvard Business School, he got involved in a family business that is now one of the largest paper and packaging companies in the world.

In the wide-ranging interview, Kraft talked about drafting Brady, winning championships and why he thinks the NFL will never be as popular outside the U.S. as soccer. He also discussed his commitment to his Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, which was founded in 2019. (Note: The interview was conducted in August.)

The prices for NFL teams have gone up and that's because TV contracts have gone up. How much higher do you think TV contracts can go?

I've been privileged to be chair of the media committee for the last couple of decades. And three seasons ago we were able to do 7-to-10-year contracts that exceeded $130 billion. And that was tremendous because it gave us great stability in the league, where we could do a 10-year labor deal.

And we basically share 50/50 with the players so they have been able to grow and succeed with us. We know linear TV is really challenged now and we brought in two tech partners, Amazon and YouTube. I think we are developing our own NFL+ where we go direct to consumers. I think we'll have some serious decisions to make down the road when we see what happens in the whole media environment.

Can American football be as popular outside the U.S. as European football is around the world? Or is that not realistic?

I don't think it's realistic. Partly because to play soccer all you need is a ball, really. You don't need equipment, you don't need anything but a net and a ball. And it's played everywhere in the world, and it's so unique. And we're privileged to have the World Cup coming here in 2026.

We hosted games at the old Foxborough Stadium when it was last here in 1994 and it's an amazing event, but that's something where two-thirds of the world's population can actually play the game. Unfortunately we haven't really played American football anywhere else but Europe. We're going to Germany this year and the stadium has 55,000 or 60,000 seats and demand for tickets was 3 million within the first 24 hours.

One of the most fateful decisions your team ever made was drafting Tom Brady. Who was the person who said, ‘Hey, let's take a gamble on him?’

That gentleman was a man by the name of Dick Rehbein, and he had been the quarterback coach for the Giants. Our coach, Bill Belichick, had hired him and brought him here when he took over in '99. Dick Rehbein had gone around the country looking at quarterbacks.

I had just given Drew Bledsoe a $100 million contract so our fans would know there's stability and they could sign up with us. And in that draft there were seven quarterbacks taken, I think by the third or fourth round. And this man, Dick Rehbein, I remember in the draft room him saying to Belichick, "You know Tom Brady's still there, he's tremendous value."

But we had three quarterbacks. And then the fifth round came, the sixth round came, and the last pick of the sixth round, which is known as a "compensatory pick," draft pick number 199, we wound up taking Tom Brady.

How did it feel when he decided to leave for Tampa Bay? Did you say, ‘I should have kept him’? Or ‘Look, I made a long-term decision and I'm OK with it?’

Well, he was an amazing person on this team. And I always would talk to him, and he would take less money to play for the Patriots. And we have a salary cap, so I always assured him that whatever money I didn't pay him wasn't going into my pocket, it was going to other players who would be around him. And if we won those kinds of trophies, he would be the biggest beneficiary for the rest of his life.

If the Patriots can't win a Super Bowl, I'm always rooting for Tom Brady. And after being with us for 20 years, we could have franchised him or done other things. I said to him, when he did his last contract two years before, that at year 20 he would decide whether he stayed with us or not. I think he had earned that right. And for his own personal reasons he felt it was best to move on.

The Washington Commanders were sold recently for $6 billion, and they haven't won six Super Bowls. If you put your team up for sale, it's presumably worth $8 billion, $10 billion, or more: Would you ever consider selling?

Never in my lifetime will we sell this team, and I hope my children keep it going as well because it's such a unique asset. After my family, I'm very passionate about this team, more than anything else. Because it also builds community, it's a way to build bridges. You bring people of all backgrounds together.

You've created a foundation to fight against antisemitism. Why are you so passionate about that cause?

I think antisemitism is on the rise and it's very disturbing to me. Because really it starts with antisemitism, then that hatred goes against every other minority community, whether it's the Black community, the LGBTQ+ or the Asian community.

The Jewish people in this country represent a little over 2% of the population, but receive over 50% of the religious hate crimes. And there are many things going on in America today that remind of what went on in Nazi Germany in the '30s.

The pin you’re wearing, I guess, is for your foundation. What does it represent?

It's a blue square. We wanted to find something that symbolized pushing back against hatred, and that is a symbol of unity and solidarity against all kinds of hate. I don't know if you saw that Adidas had this problem with Kanye West. And they did a very bold thing when they shut him off when he denied the Holocaust, and they had over a billion dollars of inventory of these Yeezys. The CEO came over and met with us and we came up with a program where he puts this little blue square in each sneaker with a card that says, "Fighting Antisemitism" on one side, and the other side "Fighting Racism." And with that they are donating to us and also pushing back against hatred.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.