I’m assuming you’ve heard about the Green Bay Packers’ stock sale that began Tuesday. The defending Super Bowl champion and only publicly owned nonprofit franchise in SportsWorld, USA division, is offering 250,000 Green Bay Packers, Inc., shares, priced at $250 per share plus handling. Only individuals may buy and then only up to 200 shares. Packers stock is available only to personhoods in the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico, blah, blah, blah. The idea is to raise $130 million and trick out Lambeau Field.
Right now there are 112,205 Packers shareholders holding 4.75 million shares. One wonders, what do these 112,205, soon to be 200,000, shareholders get for their money? First, they get a nice certificate similar to the handsome certificate I bought as a child granting me clear title to one square inch of the moon.
What else? You can’t transfer your stock to anyone other than immediate family members. The stock cannot appreciate in value. You do get voting rights (one vote per share) on those issues shareholders are entitled to vote on. You get an invitation, along with 200,000 other shareholders, to once-a-year shareholder meetings, meetings Packers executives attend, meetings which give you and 200,000 other people the opportunity to schmooze football with the front office. You get to tour the Packers Hall of Fame. You get to bear witness to the start of training camp. You get quarterly reports on the team’s operations. You are allowed to buy merchandise reserved for stockholders. There are no dividends. There are no guarantees. Well-paid professionals have worked hard to make sure you cannot make one dime on Packers stock.
The Green Bay Packers started play in 1919, in a vacant lot, endowed with $500 front money provided by the Indian Packing Company. They went 10-1 that year, scoring 565 points versus 12 for their opponents. The Packers joined the American Professional Football Association in 1921, which was rechristened as the National Football League the following year. Green Bay has been a nonprofit publicly owned corporation since 1923. This is their fifth stock sale.
One wonders, What in the hell is Green Bay, Wisconsin, doing with an NFL franchise? The NFL dominates sports in America, there is no competition for first place. Green Bay has less than one half the population of Modesto, California. You could fit the entire population of Green Bay inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and still have seats to sell.
And yet this skeleton of a town is home to the Green Bay Packers, a franchise that has won more NFL championships — 13 — than any other team in the league. They have won four Super Bowls, trailing only Pittsburgh, Dallas, and San Francisco.
Like the genesis of most good things, Green Bay was in the right place at the right time. I’m talking 1920 pro football, a below-the-radar sport. That year 11 teams met at Canton, Ohio, to form the first professional football league. Powerhouses included the Decatur Staleys, Canton Bulldogs, Dayton Triangles, Akron Pros, Masslion Tigers, Muncie Flyers, and Rock Island Independents. You can see why Green Bay fit right in.
Time passes. Things change. The NFL gets rich. Franchises come and go, teams are bought and sold, moved and moved again to bigger and bigger cities. Money gushes in from all sides, franchise valuations exceed $1 billion, but the Packers remain in Green Bay.
They remain in Green Bay for one reason: fans own the team. You don’t have relocation threats when the community is boss. And even based in Blizzard, Wisconsin, a town with a population less than Baghlan, Afghanistan, the Packers enjoy a waiting list for season tickets that averages 30 years. They have sold out every home game for the past 50 years. Green Bay volunteers staff concession stands and 60 percent of that revenue goes to charities. Volunteers shovel snow during snow storms and so on.
Remember Green Bay’s 13 NFL championships? Public ownership works so well that the NFL added a rule to its constitution outlawing nonprofit, publicly owned teams (Green Bay was grandfathered in). Being an NFL owner is as close to a money-making guarantee as you’ll find outside of Wall Street. Why would you want to turn that money over to a bunch of sappy, do-good volunteers?
Green Bay stockholders elect a board of directors to run their nonprofit corporation. The board of directors elect a seven-member executive committee (president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and three members-at-large). Everybody works for free, save for the president.
Yes, I know, those people ought to be in jail. Still, you have to acknowledge that public ownership in Green Bay has been good enough to win 13 more NFL championships than, well, than the San Diego Chargers.