New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has finally revealed the real story behind a 2005 meeting with Vladimir Putin, during which the Russian president reportedly made off with his $25,000 Super Bowl ring.
At the time, Kraft claimed the diamond-encrusted piece of bling was a gift, but he now admits Putin stole it, and the White House intervened when he demanded it back, reports The New York Post.
Kraft — speaking at Carnegie Hall's Medal of Excellence gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel Thursday — explained that the incident happened while he and other business executives were at the Konstaninovsky Palace in St. Petersburg.
"I took out the ring and showed it to [Putin], and he put it on and he goes, 'I can kill someone with this ring,'"Kraft told the crowd."I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
At the time, Kraft released a statement:
"President Putin, a great and knowledgeable sports fan, was clearly taken with its uniqueness. I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and [his] leadership."
But Kraft really wanted the 4.94-carat, diamond-encrusted accessory back, he admitted Thursday, claiming he’d gotten a call from the George W. Bush-run White House, saying, "'It would really be in the best interest of US-Soviet relations if you meant to give the ring as a present.'"(Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had collapsed 14 years earlier.)
But, Kraft said, "I really didn’t [want to]. I had an emotional tie to the ring, it has my name on it. I don’t want to see it on eBay. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and the voice repeated, 'It would really be in the best interest if you meant to give the ring as a present.' "
The ring is now reportedly kept in the Kremlin library.
Also attending Thursday's event were Andre Tippett, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tom Brady, who weighed in on the story behind Tim Tebow escaping from the NFL's version of Siberia and joining the Patriots.
"I think the more great players we have the better it’s going to be for our team," said the Patriots' quarterback. "I hope it turns out well because I’ve had a quite a lot of new guys . . . we’ll see."