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Robert Kraft (L) and Rupert Murdoch watched President Vladimir Putin try on the Patriots ring before he pocketed it.
Robert Kraft (L) and Rupert Murdoch watched President Vladimir Putin try on the Patriots ring before he pocketed it. (Kommersant Photo / Dmitry Azarov)

For Putin, it's a gem of a cultural exchange

Kraft hands over Super Bowl ring

(Correction: Because of an editing error, a Page One story yesterday about New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin misidentified St. Petersburg as Leningrad.)

It could be an international incident of sorts, a misunderstanding of Super Bowl proportions. Or it could be a very, very generous gift.

Whatever the case, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is out one championship ring, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia has scooped up some very flashy bling.

At a meeting of American business executives and Putin on Saturday in Russia, according to Russian news reports, Kraft showed his 4.94-carat, diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring to the Russian president, who, after trying it on, put it in his pocket and left.

It was unclear yesterday whether Kraft intended to give Putin the ring. It was just two weeks ago that he presented this year's championship baubles to Patriots players at his Brookline manse. A Patriots spokesman said yesterday that Kraft was still traveling overseas and could not be reached for comment.

While gifts to heads of state are customary, a token of this magnitude would be highly unusual because of its cost, one specialist said.

''That's sort of something that's outside the box," said Walter C. Carrington, Simmons College professor and a former US ambassador to Senegal and Nigeria. ''A personal thing, a piece of clothing or a ring like that, that is sort of unusual."

This year's ring, billed as the heaviest in Super Bowl history, is studded with 124 diamonds, including a marquise for each of the three Vince Lombardi trophies depicted on its face. Under Kraft's ownership, the Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls. Each year's ring, which the team helps design, has been more glitzy than the last. The team would not disclose the value of Kraft's 2005 ring, saying only that it is ''a lot more" than $15,000.

The meeting at the Konstantinovsky Palace near Leningrad featured a virtual who's who of American business, including chief executives from IBM, Intel, Citigroup, and International Paper, according to a report in Kommersant, a leading Russian business newspaper. Kraft's business holdings beyond the Patriots include paper and packaging companies and venture capital investments.

After talking privately for two hours about foreign investment, the group held a press conference, during which Kraft handed Putin the ring, the news report said. And after a few moments, the Russian president began to admire it, smiling as he modeled it on his hand.

''It's a Super Bowl ring," Kraft declared. ''It's a very good ring."

Putin then pocketed the trinket and bade goodbye to his guests, according to Kommersant's report.

Tokens given to the Russian president are normally kept in the Russian state treasury, but in this case, the Super Bowl ring was deposited in the Kremlin library, Kommersant reported.

Yevgeniy Khorishko, a spokesman at the Russian embassy in Washington, would not say yesterday whether there had been any request to retrieve the ring.

Getting the ring back would be exceptionally touchy, Carrington said. Still, he had some advice about how it might be done.

''He should talk to someone who's close to the president to kind of explain that this is a very treasured thing," Carrington said. ''Then just sort of ask when he could expect it back."

The request could be accompanied by a more modest gift, perhaps a souvenir football, he suggested. Carrington said that while he was an ambassador, he often received unusual gifts.

''Sometimes you get a goat or a cow," he said. ''Then I'd tell my aide to take care of it. It would be an insult to give it back."

The best resolution is easy, Carrington said with a laugh: ''Win another Super Bowl."

Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.


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