The Green Bay Packers are 100 years old this season and are called “The Last Small Town Team”. I’ve been in Green Bay, it’s not big.
Alone among Major League Franchises in any sport, the Packers are not owned by an individual or a syndicate, but instead by a public corporation which, if not a perfect model of Anarcho-Syndicalism (bring on those Commies, I’ll kick their ass), is at least an exemplar of corporate democracy and with strict limits on share concentration about the farthest thing from a normal company.
The Packers are the only community-owned franchise in North America’s four traditional major leagues. Rather than being the property of an individual, partnership, or corporate entity, they are held in 2014 by 360,584 stockholders. No one is allowed to hold more than 200,000 shares, or approximately 4% of the 5,011,557 shares currently outstanding. It is this broad-based community support and non-profit structure which has kept the team in Green Bay for nearly a century in spite of being the smallest market in all of North American professional sports.
There have been five stock sales to fund Packer operations over the team’s history, beginning with $5,000 being raised through 1,000 shares offered at $5 apiece in 1923. Most recently, $64 million was raised in 2011–2012 towards a $143-million Lambeau Field expansion. Demand exceeded expectations, and the original 250,000 share limit had to be increased before some 250,000 new buyers from all 50 U.S. states and Canada purchased 269,000 shares at $250 apiece, approximately 99% online.
The original “Articles of Incorporation for the Green Bay Football Corporation”, enacted in 1923, specified that should the franchise be sold, any post-expenses money would have gone to the Sullivan-Wallen Post of the American Legion to build “a proper soldier’s memorial.” This stipulation was included to ensure there could never be any financial inducement for shareholders to move the club from Green Bay. At the November 1997 annual meeting, shareholders voted to change the beneficiary from the Sullivan-Wallen Post to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, which makes donations to many charities and institutions throughout Wisconsin.
Even though it is referred to as “common stock” in corporate offering documents, a share of Packers stock does not share the same rights traditionally associated with common or preferred stock. It does not include an equity interest, does not pay dividends, can not be traded, has no securities-law protection, and brings no season ticket purchase privileges. All shareholders receive are voting rights, an invitation to the corporation’s annual meeting, and an opportunity to purchase exclusive shareholder-only merchandise. Shares of stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. While new shares can be given as gifts, transfers are technically allowed only between immediate family members once ownership has been established.
Green Bay is the only team with this form of ownership structure in the NFL, which does not comply with current league rules stipulating a maximum of 32 owners per team, with one holding a minimum 30% stake. The Packers’ corporation was grandfathered when the NFL’s current ownership policy was established in the 1980s. As a publicly held nonprofit, the Packers are also the only American major-league sports franchise to release its financial balance sheet every year.
So there you go. They could totally suck, season after season (like the Giants, my other favorite team- please don’t be stupid enough to hire Tom Brady) and I would still love them.
But they don’t, even if it’s time to start thinking about the next Aaron Rodgers who is the last of the Naughty Aughty QBs still standing; 13 – 3 is nothing to sneeze at considering they started terrible and have barely squeaked through a lot of games they should have won handily.
Unfortunately they face the 11 – 5 Seahawks who are another team I like if only because they eliminated the Iggles las week. The Seahawks could be hampered by the weather a trifle, it’s always cold at Lambeau Field (named after a guy, not a corporation) and it has snowed and is predicted to some more. Too bad the 9ers won, could use some more games there.
Packers are 4.5 point favorites and should cover in spades.