The letter was waiting for me on the kitchen counter when I arrived home from work today. With the Green Bay Packers logo as the return address, I knew what it was. No, Ted Thompson was not reaching out to me in his quest for more fullbacks, but in fact, Packers President Mark Murphy was making a request of me. Mark Murphy wants my vote.
I am a Green Bay Packers shareholder, one of 112,120 people who can make that claim. 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 (damn!). While my rights as a stockholder are very limited, I do have a vote in the election of the Board of Directors. And that’s what the letter is about. The bold green type on the outside of the envelope implores me to “Embrace your membership and VOTE. It’s your obligation.”
Since the Packers were converted to a non-profit corporation in 1923, there have been 4 stock sales. From Packers.com:
There now have been four stock drives in the 90-year history of the team. The first stock sale, which took place at that 1923 meeting, saw local merchants raise $5,000 by selling 1,000 shares for $5 apiece, with a stipulation that the purchaser also had to buy at least six season tickets.
The second, in 1935, raised $15,000 after the corporation had gone into receivership. At that point, the non-profit Green Bay Football Corporation was reorganized as the Green Bay Packers, Inc., the present company, with 300 shares of stock outstanding.
The third, in 1950, came on the heels of founder Curly Lambeau’s 30-year dominion, when the club’s officers arranged to amend the corporation’s bylaws to permit the sale of up to 10,000 total shares of stock (opening up more than 9,500 shares for purchase), to limit the number of shares that any individual could own. The team also increased the number of directors from 15 to 25.
The response to the 1950 drive was inspiring, with people from all across Wisconsin, as well as former Green Bay residents living in other states, coming forward to buy the $25 shares of stock. Roughly $50,000 was raised in one 11-day period alone. Reportedly, one woman from a farm near Wrightstown, Wis., showed up at the team’s offices with $25 worth of quarters in a match box. A total of about $118,000 was generated through this major stock sale, helping to put the Packers on a sound financial basis once again.
The fourth came late in 1997 and early in 1998. It added 105,989 new shareholders and raised more than $24 million, monies which were utilized for the Lambeau Field redevelopment project. Priced at $200 per share, fans bought 120,010 shares during the 17-week sale, which ended March 16, 1998.
As a means of running the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders. The board of directors in turn elect a seven-member Executive Committee (officers) of the corporation, consisting of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and three members-at-large. The president is the only officer who receives compensation. The balance of the committee is sitting gratis.
Shares of stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. Limited transfer of shares (ie., to heirs and relatives) is permissible.
Upon opening the envelope, there is a letter from Mark Murphy. He writes that the Packers are putting a strong emphasis on voting this year. They want everyone to fullfill their obligation and just as importantly, do it online. Voting online “saves the organization paper and money – resources we can better use elsewhere.” Maybe if they save enough, Ted Thompson will dip into the free agent market next year. Or maybe not.
As incentive for voting online, my name will be entered into a drawing for various prizes, including an Aaron Rodgers autographed helmet, Charles Woodson autographed football, and some Pro Shop gift cards. yes, that was enough incentive for me. I quickly cast my vote online.
And this year, there is a new wrinkle from the Packers marketing department. There is now an exclusive “shareholder merchandise” area at packersproshop.com. I make a beeline for the site, logging in with my special username and password (You can torture me if you like, but I’m not telling you what it is…). It shows that I can purchase a variety of apparel that says “shareholder”, t-shirts that say “I Own a Piece of the Pack”, and of course the usual collection of keychains, shot glasses and Christmas ornaments.
I can order any of these items, but you can’t – unless you also ponied up the $200 in 1997 for that piece of paper that’s probably framed and hanging on your wall. Trust me, the ability to buy shareholder merchandise was not worth $200, and neither is my one vote for Packers’ board of directors. I consider my $200 a donation to support the team I’ve loved for over 40 years. But mostly, just to be able to say I’m a part-owner of an NFL franchise – that’s priceless.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.