Fans of the Green Bay Packers already have a lot to be happy about. Their team won last year’s Super Bowl Championship, their first since 1996 and only the second time they’ve claimed the trophy since it was named after their legendary head coach Vince Lombardi (who, incidentally, coached the Packers to wins in both of the first two Super Bowls). Now, the team’s 12-0, quarterback Aaron Rogers is the toast of the NFL, and, to use market parlance, they know that they sold very, VERY high on Brett Favre. However, Tuesday offers another opportunity for any major fans of the league’s best franchise to partake in a unique position: part owner.
“No Chance for Profit? Sign Me Up!”
It’s not often that one might see people clamoring to buy a stock that offers no dividend and has virtually no resale value , but the status of the Green Bay Packers as a publicly traded company creates just such a situation. While every other NFL team is owned by either a singular wealthy individual or a small cadre of wealthy investors, the Packers are owned by the people of Green Bay and other football fans across the country. Ownership of just one share gives a lucky Green Bay fan an actual piece of his favorite team, complete with voting rights at the annual shareholders meeting. The team first went public in 1923, when shares sold for $5 apiece, and has only had a total of three stock sales since in 1935, 1950, and 1997, each to raise more funds for the team.
“I Paid for This Seat. No, Seriously, I PAID For This Seat.”
The sale of new shares is used to raise money for the team, in this most recent case to help fund a $143 million expansion to Lambeau Field that should add 7,000 seats. This time around, Green Bay intends to sell 250,000 shares at $250 apiece in order to raise $62.5 million in revenue. At present, the Packers have 112,205 shareholders who own 4,750,940 shares of stock. Fans are limited to ownership of 200 shares, including those purchased during the 1997-98 offering. Shareholders get to attend the annual shareholders meeting before training camp each year where they can meet Packers executives, tour the Packers’ Hall of Fame, and stay to watch training camp. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the fact that every shareholder has voting rights in the franchise. Shareholders may participate in electing the Board of Directors and the seven-member Executive Committee, a privilege that any Detroit Lions fan would have killed for while Matt Millen was running their team.
The situation in Green Bay is in direct violation of NFL team rules that state that all NFL teams must be wholly owned by one person or a small group of individuals where one person holds at least a 1/3 stake, a rule designed to prevent corporate ownership. However, because the Packers had been incorporated years earlier, the NFL created a special exemption for the Packers organization. Now, in a sports landscape dominated by teams moving to sunnier pastures and a lack of loyalty to the fan base, the citizens of Green Bay, with a population of just over 100,000 people, can be sure that their team will be staying put for as long as they’re still playing football. The fifth ever sale of shares is due to begin tomorrow and continue through the end of February 2012. For a great many football fans, it represents a rare chance to participate in the fate of their favorite team. Or, for Bears fans, a valuable opportunity for subterfuge.