In a fitting tribute on the occasion of the New England Patriots 50th anniversary celebration in 2009, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft inducted the franchise’s original owner, Billy Sullivan, into the Patriots Hall of Fame as a contributor. Sullivan is the first contributor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sullivan and a consortium of businessmen mustered up enough cash in 1959 to secure the eighth and final AFL franchise in a new league that would attempt to do what many had tried and failed to do before them — battle the established NFL. Dubbed “The Foolish Club”, the original eight AFL owners persevered and succeeded. The two league’s merged in 1970. Sullivan owned the club until 1988 when he sold to razor magnate Victor Kiam. But while professional football in New England had failed to take root in previous attempts, Sullivan’s effort laid the groundwork for today’s Patriots. Under Sullivan, the 1963 Patriots played for the AFL Championship. He also oversaw NFL playoff teams in 1976, 1978, 1982, 1985 and 1986 with an AFC Championship and Super Bowl berth in 1985.
On Nov. 16, 1959, William H. Sullivan, Jr. was awarded the eighth and final charter franchise of the American Football League
Sullivan, with nine other investors, sold non-voting public stock in the franchise to raise capital to help post the franchise fee of $25,000
In 1975, Sullivan purchased additional stock to become majority owner. In 1976, he purchased all the remaining non-voting stock in the team.
During the 1960s, the Patriots played home games at stadiums throughout Boston, including Boston University Field, Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium and Boston College’s Alumni Stadium.
A year after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the franchise moved to the newly-constructed Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. and the team was renamed the New England Patriots.
In 1983, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium to honor Sullivan’s contributions to the franchise.
Sullivan owned the Patriots through 1988, when he sold the franchise to Victor Kiam.
He remained team president through 1992.