In recognition of the Green Bay Packers trip to the Super Bowl, I though it would be interesting to discuss the Packers shareholder system and offer a few ideas on how to invest in sports teams through a public company. The Packers are unique in that they’re owned by their fans. Packers.com
says there are 4,750,937 shares owned by 112,158 stockholders. As a Chicago Bears fan, it actually pains me to discuss the Packers in this public forum, but I was fascinated by a discussion a few weeks ago before the Bears/Packers game about how former Bears owner George Halas actually saved the Packers team
from being forced to move out of Green Bay in the 1950’s. If not for Papa Bear Halas, the Green Bay Packers wouldn’t exist today.
With the disclosure of my fan allegiance out of the way, let’s move on to how the Packers are organized. On August 18, 1923 the Green Bay Packers
became a publicly owned, non-profit corporation. They’re governed by a 45 member board of directors and a seven member executive committee. The committee “directs corporate management, approves major capital expenditures, establishes broad policy and monitors management's performance in conducting the business and affairs of the corporation.” The Packers hold a shareholders meeting each July inside Lambeau Field.
What if the Packers were sold? That’s another unique story. It’s written in their charter that if they are ever sold, all assets would be transferred to the Sullivan-Wallen Post of the American Legion in order to build a "proper soldiers memorial." This beneficiary was changed in 1997 to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, presumably because to spend the amount of money they’d make from the sale of the team, a soldier’s memorial would have to consist of pure gold and diamonds. Forbes
estimates that the team is worth $1 billion. If my math is correct, each share is worth approximately $210. To prevent the sale of the team, and enrichment of the shareholders, no own is allowed to own more than 200,000 shares.
The Packers are the only NFL team to publicly release financial information. Revenue is $242 million per year, and operating income is $9.8 million. That puts their PE ratio at a lofty 102, and no dividends!
They are also the only professional sports team that is a public company with a board of directors. There are five other sports teams that are owned by public companies, but don't have their own board of directors. If this is a space you’re interest in, look at investing in the Atlanta Braves baseball team, owned by Liberty Media (LINTA
), the New York Rangers hockey team, owned by Cablevision (CVC
), the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, owned by Compuware (CPWR
), the Seattle Mariners, owned by Nintendo of America (NTDOY.PK
), and the Toronto Blue Jays, owned by Rogers Communications (RCI
The Packers issued additional shares several times in order to raise money. In addition to the original 1923 issuance, they also “diluted” existing shareholders in 1935, 1950 and 1997. The most recent share issuance was to help fund the Lambeau Field redevelopment project.
No matter who wins the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Packers can lay claim to being one of the most storied football teams in the league. They’ve remained competitive throughout the history of the league despite being in a small market. That’s a testament to their history, strong fan base, and the uniqueness of the corporate structure. Without that structure, they probably wouldn’t have remained in Wisconsin through all these years. Unlike other team's fans, if the Packers end up winning the Super Bowl, the fans who own shares of the team can legitimately say, as owners, that they played a part in the win. If not for their investments through the years, the Packers wouldn't be representing them in Super Bowl XLV.
Disclosure: No positions
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