Robert Kraft is the most influential team owner in sports, the Sports Business Journal declared in its annual rankings of sports business leaders.
Topping a list that includes Red Sox principal owner John Henry, Hornets and NASCAR owner Michael Jordan, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kraft was singled out by the publication for his leading role in securing the $110 billion worth of new media rights deals the NFL landed in the spring.
“The New England Patriots’ longtime owner has been out front in efforts to sell a stake in NFL Media,” the Sports Business Journal wrote, “and a critical conduit to Fanatics founder Michael Rubin and a host of celebrity and business VIPs.”
Last week, the Kraft Group announced its $225 million renovation plan for Gillette Stadium. Having the stadium chosen as a host site for the 2026 World Cup is very much a hope the group would like to realize early next year.
The construction of a new stadium for the New England Revolution in or near downtown Boston remains a key part of the Kraft Group’s plans.
The Fenway Sports Group’s top trio of Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president Mike Gordon were recognized for their $900 million purchase of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Also, said SBJ, “Along with chairing MLB’s business board and sitting on the league’s executive council, Henry plays what now is a particularly pivotal role as a member of the labor policy committee.”
Henry also owns the Globe.
Other sports team owners included were Ted Leonsis, Stan Kroenke, and Phil Anschutz.
Rubin was cited as the No. 1 influencer in the entire sports industry, with his apparel company expanding this year into a conglomerate with ties to the sports betting, media, ticketing, NFT and trading card realms.
In the “Dealmakers” category, Gerry Cardinale, the founder and managing partner of RedBird Capital and the third-largest shareholder in FSG after his firm’s $750 million investment, received mention.
For athlete influencers, two newer FSG partners, Lakers star LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter, along with James’s agent Rich Paul, were lauded for deals with Pepsi, his “Space Jam” movie, and their SpringHill Entertainment Company’s growth.
Among “Industry Drivers,” Boston-based DraftKings CEO Jason Robins drew mention, with the publication saying that DraftKings, No. 2 behind FanDuel in the fantasy sports-sports betting realm, “may take the lead if sports betting and social media converge, as Robins predicts.”