“It’s an organized fan club with some official (indication) of membership — in this case, a stock certificate. … And I do think there is something in that market where Packer owners sort of stand a tiptoe taller.”
The Packers’ stock is not the same thing as, say, the stock available in the Atlanta Braves and New York Knicks/Rangers.
The Braves stock – a tracking stock issued in April by Liberty Media for the team and its mixed-use development around SunTrust Park – trades publicly on the Nasdaq exchange. Similarly, shares can be bought and sold in Madison Square Garden Co., which includes the Knicks, Rangers, their iconic arena and other assets.
As one of several Liberty Media tracking stocks, the Braves shares are intended to reflect the franchise’s financial performance separate from the rest of the Colorado-based conglomerate while keeping the team under Liberty ownership.
Some Braves fans have said they bought a few shares for emotional reasons — a la Packers fans — but the vast majority of the stock is held by investors seeking price appreciation, perhaps from increased revenue in SunTrust Park or from improvement on the field after three consecutive losing seasons.
“I think the catalysts of value there are, first, we have the new stadium opening,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said at an investment conference last month. “I think we’ll get a nice bump on revenues there.
“The reality is on-field performance has some correlation with market perception,” Maffei added, referring to the stock price. “People think a hot team trades better.”
The Packers don’t have to worry about market perception.
They have sold stock on five occasions – in 1923 for $5 per share, 1935 for $25 per share, 1950 for $25 per share, 1997-98 for $200 per share and 2011-12 for $250 per share. The first three offerings were to rescue the franchise from financial trouble and the last two for stadium development.
Except during offering periods, no Packers stock is sold. The team has no current plan for another offering, meaning there’s no way to join the 360,920 owners other than a transfer of stock from a family member.
The most recent offering, which ended in February 2012, netted $64 million for a Lambeau Field expansion, with more than 250,000 fans purchasing 269,000 shares.
“It keeps working,” Boland said, attributing the success of the Packers’ stock program to the novelty of it. “I have a friend who worked his life in sports and bought a share of Packers stock for both his children.”
Current NFL rules wouldn’t allow a similar model, requiring each team to have a controlling owner whose family owns at least 30 percent. Only the Packers are exempt.
Most of the Packers stockholders are Wisconsin residents, but shares are owned by people in all 50 states. No season-ticket rights are connected to the stock. (No doubt, though, some Packers owners will find their way into the Georgia Dome on Sunday.)
The shareholders hold an annual meeting each summer at Lambeau Field, where they hear reports from team executives and vote on a board of directors.
The board appoints a seven-member executive committee, including a president, that runs the business of the franchise and makes the type of decisions a single owner might shape with the NFL’s other franchises.
The Packers’ bylaws prevent anyone from owning more than 200,000 shares, a safeguard against an individual taking control. And they stipulate proceeds would go to charity if the team is ever sold, a safeguard enacted to ensure the Packers remain in Green Bay and shareholders remain free of financial incentive.
“The Packers are sort of a living exception to all the rules of sports today,” Boland said.