The Green Bay Packers: A Non Profit Organization
- One of the more extraordinary business stories in American history, the Green Bay Packers organization has been kept afloat by its fans. Even more incredible, the Packers have survived during the current era, permeated by free agency and the NFL salary cap (packers.com). Before the modern era of football, once a player joined a team, they were not allowed to be traded or signed by any other teams. Then came along free agency, which meant when a player‘s contract was up with one team, he was free to sign with any team of his choice, usually the highest bidder. With small market teams like Green Bay without an owner to shell out the cash, how were they to compete? Green Bay should be the only franchise allowed to hold stock drives in order to raise money for team expenditures.
- The Green Bay Packers, Inc., has been a publicly owned, nonprofit corporation since Aug. 18, 1923, when original articles of incorporation were filed with Wisconsin’s secretary of state (packers.com). The Packers have a CEO/President to serve as ambassador to the team but in a nutshell, the team is literally owned by its fans. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value, and there are no season ticket privileges associated with stock ownership.
- No shareholder is allowed to own more than 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no one individual is able to assume control of the club (packers.com).
- The Packers just recently held their biggest stock sale to date after their Superbowl win during the 2010-2011 season. 250,000 shares are available overall, at $250 a piece the Packers made $62.5 million from the stock sale by the time it was over. All proceeds were spent on a specific project within the organization, just as a non-profit demands; However, any remaining funds would go to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, which assists in a wide variety of activities and programs that benefit education, civic affairs, health services, human services and youth-related programs.
- Many other league representatives are unhappy with the fact that they are unable to employ such tactics within their own franchises. They feel that if their franchise can’t sell stock, then the Packers shouldn’t be able to either. The problem is, most owners are probably in it for the cash grab, keeping the money for themselves, defeating the entire purpose of being a non profit organization Now, obtaining a once in a lifetime piece of memorabilia courtesy of The Green Bay Packers is in jeopardy. Other NFL franchises should not be allowed to sell stock of their franchise.
- The League has an answer for the conundrum as well. “The rules permit the Packers to sell ‘stock’ because the Packers already had been selling stock before the league implemented a rule against such transactions (Florio).” In essence the team was grandfathered into this rule. Some teams are still upset. Mike Florio was told by a team executive that “plenty of franchises would love to have the ability to “print money,” explaining that this tactic gives the Packers “a decided financial advantage.” They fail to realize the history and pain that goes into that piece of paper and what value it holds as piece of memorabilia. To truly understand the importance of this ongoing practice, you must first know the complicated and remarkable journey of the Green Bay Packer’s Lore.
- When rain threatened to keep fans away and bankrupt the Packers in 1923, A.B. Turnbull told Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun to play their games and that he’s bail them out of debt. Turnbull then organized local investors, and turned the team into a non-profit organization. He held the first stock drive and raised just $1,000 dollars. Keeping the Packers in tact for now.
- In 1935, as the Packers popularity prospered in a city that revolved around their very franchise, they still found themselves in financial trouble trying to sustain themselves in such a small market. President Lee Joannes set up a “Save the Packers” stock drive, getting donations from firefighters, policemen, high-school students, housewives, civic leaders and any other citizen who wasn’t willing to part with their team. The stock drive raised $15,000 dollars. With the implementation of the college draft in 1936, smaller market teams such as Green Bay could stay competitive with big city teams by drafting talented young players.
- In the 1940’s, The Packers decided to invest in war bonds. The little money they had in their reserve kept the team afloat despite losses of $25,000 in 1943 alone, as World War II depleted the rosters during their own ‘draft.’ Continuing their post WWII struggles, the Packers hosted an Intrasquad game on Thanksgiving in 1949. They brought back old-timer, drawing 15,000 people to City Stadium and earning $50,000 in the process. In 1950, shortly after the legendary Curly Lambeau’s departure, they held a third stock drive raising nearly $118,000.
- They won their first three championships by league standing (1929, 1930 and 1931), and owned 8 championships since the NFL’s playoff system was established in 1933. Success has been plentiful for the Packers and the fans couldn’t be happier. Then came the Superbowl win in 1997 with Brett Favre. This prompted another stock drive raising $24 million, all of which was utilized for the Lambeau Field redevelopment Project (packers.com). After the recent Superbowl victory last year the team sold 263,000 shares of stock at $250 per share, raising a whopping $65.75 million for renovations on the historic Lambeau Field.
- Undeniably, most franchises are upset they aren’t allowed to use this tactic. Most opposing fans and owners find it ‘gullible’ and ‘naïve’ of the fans to buy a stock that really isn’t worth much more than the piece of paper it’s printed on. Some even mock us As to the existing 112,148 shareholders; their “ownership” of the team has been considerably diluted. But those 112,148 own more than 4 million shares, even though (as the Packers are required by law to explain when trying to sell the items) “stock in the Packers does not constitute an investment in ‘stock’ in the common sense of the term” and “the Packers have no obligation to repay the amount a buyer pays to purchase Packers stock” and “anyone considering the purchase of Packers stock should not purchase the stock to make a profit or to receive a dividend or tax deduction or any other economic benefits” and “the Packers bylaws and NFL rules severely restrict transfers of Packers stock.(Florio)”
- While we understand that we aren’t truly “owners” of the team, is it too much to ask for us to have a bit of fun with this? People believe that we are just being dooped into pouring money into a fake stock. When in reality most are just trying to support the team they love and literally have a title as “NFL Stock Owner”. A stock costs $250, it’s something you can hang on your wall with pride and will endure a lengthy shelf life. That $250 dollars goes directly into the Packers Organization; a show of true support for your team. If you buy a licensed NFL jersey for $250 dollars, sure that supports your team but that money also goes to Reebok and the NFL, not the particular team you root for. By purchasing stock your dollar goes directly into the Packers organization, a pure show of fandom and unselfishness. The Packers have used this tactic for over 85 years in order to keep themselves a franchise. If they weren’t a non-profit organization owned publicly they would’ve been driven out of Green Bay years ago. It is essential that the NFL allow this rule to continue for the most unique franchise in all of sports.