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Name and title: Richard Karelitz, general counsel, Kraft Group Age: 54 Legal quarterback: Some corporate lawyers are given little Lucite paperweights to commemorate their clients’ victories. Richard Karelitz gets Super Bowl rings. Karelitz is general counsel of the Kraft Group, which owns the New England Patriots of the National Football League. He sports a ring celebrating the Patriots’ NFL championship in 2002, and may soon get another one for the team’s Super Bowl triumph over the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 1. A week before the game, Karelitz joined the Patriots’ Super Bowl-bound, six-airplane “travel party” of 1,900 team members, coaches, employees, executives, major corporate sponsors and family. However, the days leading up to the game were hardly a party for Karelitz. He pitched in to help out with logistics and communications for the team’s official delegation, which was spread out in eight Houston hotels. The squad: In football parlance, Karelitz is one of the squad’s most seasoned veterans, having teamed up with Kraft Group founder and chairman Robert Kraft nearly 29 years ago. During this time, the company has grown from a small pulp, paper and packaging concern to a diverse holding company involved in the sports industry and private equity investment field. In addition to the Patriots, the Kraft Group’s properties include the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., which is home to the Patriots and the Revolution and also houses the company’s corporate headquarters. Kraft Group employs about 2,000 employees worldwide, with more than 1,000 in the United States. The privately held company does not publicize its finances. Stadium saga: For Karelitz, the road to the Super Bowl began in 1988, when Kraft outbid then-Patriots owner Victor Kiam to buy Foxboro Stadium, the team’s home field, in a bankruptcy court sale. Kiam sold the team to beer magnate James Busch Orthwein, who planned to move the team to his native St. Louis. In 1994, Karelitz helped negotiate Kraft’s purchase of the Patriots from Orthwein for a then-record $200 million. The purchase prevented the team’s departure, but the Patriots still needed a new field to replace the cramped and increasing decrepit Foxboro Stadium, said Karelitz. Local opposition blocked plans for a stadium and convention center in South Boston, and state legislators balked at the millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements that Kraft said he needed to build a new stadium in Foxboro. In 1998, Karelitz helped to reach an agreement with Connecticut for the Patriots to move to a new taxpayer-funded stadium to be built in Hartford. The next year, Kraft backed out of this deal, citing potential construction delays due to environmental problems. Massachusetts soon committed to the requested infrastructure improvements, prompting Connecticut Governor John Rowland to sue the NFL, alleging that Kraft’s deal with his state was merely a bargaining ploy to wring concessions from Massachusetts. Karelitz strongly denies this charge, stating that the Kraft Group signed the deal in good faith and properly invoked the agreement’s termination provisions. In 2000, the NFL paid Connecticut $2.4 million to settle the state’s claims. After that deal fell through, Kraft and Karelitz focused on a new stadium in Foxboro. Kraft committed $325 million of his own funds for the new stadium, and Karelitz helped negotiate the construction contracts for Gillette Stadium. The 68,000-seat stadium opened in September 2002. Special team: Karelitz oversees a legal department of five other lawyers and two administrative assistants, which handles legal matters for the Patriots and the other Kraft Group companies. “On any given day, I might be working for the Patriots, Gillette Stadium, IFP, Rand-Whitney or Carmel Container,” he said. “An exciting part of my career is that every day when I come to work I don’t know what I’ll be doing or for whom.” Making the team: Karelitz, a native of Millburn, N.J., graduated in 1971 from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in accounting, and has a 1974 J.D. and a 1977 LL.M. in taxation from Boston University School of Law. In 1974, Karelitz signed on as a tax attorney at the Boston office of the accounting firm of Coopers and Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). The next year, the firm assigned Karelitz to help client International Forest Products Corp. (IFP), after the company’s treasurer died. Within weeks, IFP founder Robert Kraft offered to make the arrangement permanent. He was initially reluctant to leave the security of a major accounting firm to become general counsel and treasurer of a two-year-old, six-employee start-up. At his wife’s urging, he took the plunge. “[Kraft] said to me, ‘You will never be bored,’ ” Karelitz recalled. “ He was right.” Personal: Richard and Jini Karelitz, who will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this summer, live in Sharon, Mass. The couple have two sons: David, 25, a computer professional in Albuquerque, N.M., and Daniel, 22, who plans to attend Georgetown University Law Center after graduating this year from Emory University. Last book and movie: The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, by Andy Andrews, and Mystic River.

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