December 6, 2011; Source: Bloomberg | The Green Bay Packers are notable not just for currently employing the best quarterback in professional football (whose final minute drive eked out a victory over the hard-luck New York Giants). As per Bloomberg News, the Packers are “the only publicly owned franchise in U.S. sports.” In a way, the Packers are an exemplary “social enterprise.” Shares do not pay dividends, cannot appreciate in value, and cannot be sold. If you are one of the fans purchasing the $250 shares, you are buying into the mission of the Packers and not expecting to make a killing—or any income at all for that matter. The purpose of this stock offering is to raise $62.5 million toward a $143 million renovation of Lambeau Field, the ice bowl where the Packers torture visiting teams. In the first 11 minutes of this fifth sale of stock in the team’s history, fans purchased $400,000 worth of shares (1,600 shares total). The sale will run through February 29, though if the team sells out the initial 250,000 share offering, the Packers may issue additional shares.
As of now (prior to the sale) there are 112,000 owners of the team’s 4.75 million shares, though the Miller Brewing Co. (owned by Molson Coors Brewing) is the team’s largest shareholder. For this sale, purchasers must be individuals, not businesses or corporations, and there is a limit of 200 shares per owner (combining an owner’s previous shares and what one might buy through this offering). What is the attraction? Owning a share of the Packers doesn’t permit you to jump the waiting list of 93,000 people looking for season tickets, but shareholders do get a vote on the team’s board of directors, can attend rookie practices, and can purchase “I Own a Piece of the Pack” T-shirts. Shareholders get to contribute to keeping a professional football team in the National Football League’s smallest market (Green Bay, Wisconsin, has a population of a little over 100,000). (Offerings of stock in 1935 and 1940 helped keep the Packers financially afloat when other sports franchises were going under due to the Depression.)
The Packers are a nonprofit corporation in a very fundamental way. The community in Green Bay and the broader community of Packer fans in the United States are the owners of this unique social enterprise. As a result, although the Packers did get rid of Bret Favre toward the end of his career, they are probably wise enough to prevent any possible release or trade of superstar Aaron Rodgers.—Rick Cohen