Patriots owner Robert Kraft's shady side

Owning a football team, no matter the size, puts a person in a league of their own. That's especially true when that team is the New England Patriots. Robert Kraft, who owns the Tom Brady-led and Bill Belichick-coached group of footballers has made a name for himself over the years for winning Super Bowl after Super Bowl. But there's more to the billionaire businessman than meets the eye.

Having started his career by purchasing the Rand-Whitney Group packaging company and founding International Forest Products, Kraft later gained fame for coughing up a whopping $175 million for the Patriots in 1992, setting a record for the highest bid on a sports team in NFL history at the time (via Business Insider). But there are a few shady details about the sports owner that have left fans raising an eyebrow. From his peculiar love life to his strange connection with Russia, Kraft's one to keep an eye on. Some of this guys plays may prompt sports fanatics to yell out, "Penalty!"

Dicey dating decisions

There's nothing wrong with an age difference between lovers — but when that gap spans several decades, it can often be seen as more than a little strange. Case in point: Robert Kraft and his longtime girlfriend, sometimes-actress Ricki Noel Lander. While Kraft can snag a senior citizen discount at the theater, his gal will have to pay full price for a long time — she's nearly four decades his junior.

It seems Kraft may have been well aware of the startling age difference back in 2012, when the pair was first spotted out together, because he didn't even call her his girlfriend at the time. "She's my pal," he said in response to questions about his frequent female guest at Patriots games (via Deadspin).

His decision to date a much younger woman apparently shocked Kraft's close friends. A source told People that his inner circle was caught off guard to hear that Kraft had started dating again after the 2011 death of his wife Myra. "He was devoted to his late wife and loved her so much and was devastated by her death so people find his new relationship with this woman who is so much younger to be surprising," the insider said.

Daddy issues

Kraft and Lander have been dating since 2012, so when rumors circulated that the blonde actress had given birth to a baby, most assumed it was Kraft's child. However, that was apparently not the case. According to People, while it was confirmed that Lander delivered her first child in the fall of 2017, Kraft's spokesperson denied that the Patriots owner was the father — despite the couple's continued relationship.

"Last fall, Ricki Noel Lander became the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy baby. While Robert Kraft is not the biological father, he is thrilled with Ricki's blessing of having a healthy child," Kraft's rep told Page Six. "With respect to her family's privacy, we will not be commenting any further."

So… did Lander get pregnant by another man during a break from Kraft? Or does Kraft simply not want to claim paternity for the child? Or perhaps Kraft was unable or uninterested in fathering a child and gave Lander his blessing to have a baby utilizing another means. As of this writing, nothing is clear.

Regardless, Kraft is reportedly taking steps to ensure the comfort and health of both Lander and her baby, allegedly purchasing a mansion in Los Angeles and making investments for the new mother. While Kraft sounds supportive, the birth of Lander's child may still be a touchy subject for him. A source told Page Six, "There is a lot of tiptoeing around the subject at the Patriots offices. Everyone is afraid to openly talk about it."

Sore winner

Kraft may be one of the richest men in America with a lifetime of professional and financial success under his belt, but that doesn't mean he still won't take the time to celebrate his victories — and rub his enemies' faces in them. 

According to a February 2018 article in The New York Times, Kraft sparked outrage from fellow NFL team owner Arthur Blank after he ordered Super Bowl LI rings that paid mocking homage to the third-quarter score of the Patriots' game against the Atlanta Falcons. At one point in said quarter, the Falcons were leading the Patriots 28-3, but New England proceeded to mount an amazing comeback and win the Super Bowl in overtime by a score of 34-28. The Times reported that Kraft had precisely 283 diamonds set into each of the rings in a move that would forever troll the team's rivals.

Blank, who has owned the Falcons since 2002, felt Kraft's design was disrespectful. "I said to Robert, 'You didn't have to do the 28-3 in the ring,'" Blank told the Times. "It kind of pissed me off."

Present for Putin

It's no secret that the United States has had a strained relationship with Russia for the better part of the past several decades, so it's rather surprising to learn that Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with Russian President Vladmir Putin in 2005. 

Kraft recalled the meeting for NFL Films in 2017, explaining that he visited Russia with a friend and even gave Putin an expensive gift — though he allegedly hadn't meant to at the time.

While showing off his Super Bowl ring to the Russian leader, Kraft said he handed the huge piece of jewelry to Putin to examine and try on, but Putin apparently did more than that. According to Kraft (via CBS Sports), Putin remarked, "I could kill someone with this," and then placed the ring in his pocket and walked away.

Kraft supposedly tried to get his bling back, but that's when the U.S. government allegedly stepped in. Kraft claims the White House told him: "It would really be in the best interest of US-Soviet relations if you meant to give the ring as a present."

In an effort to keep the peace, Kraft caved to diplomacy. "I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin," Kraft told NFL Films.

Ready for a fight

While Robert Kraft was able to let go of sour grapes toward Putin, the storied owner has been far less willing to promote peace within the National Football League — or within the New England Patriots. 

According to a January 2018 article published by ESPN, Kraft butted heads with Patriots' coach Bill Belichick and the team's all-star celeb quarterback, Tom Brady, and it all reportedly had to do with trading player James Garoppolo, or Jimmy G, and with some allegedly questionable actions by Brady's friend and "body coach," Alex Guerrero.

Kraft denied that the conflict with Belichick and Brady would lead to any sort of permanent falling out. In fact, the team's owner told Good Morning Football that the strain was good for the team. "You have tension. I think a certain amount of tension helps make great things happen," he said (via CBS Boston).