The Green Bay Packers, which remain a unique business corporation in the country, is pulling in a level of revenues and profits to allow it stay competitive with billionaire, high-rollers in the National Football League.
Because it is a non-profit corporation, it does not have to pay dividends to its 537,000 shareholders, a phenomenal support base. All they get and want is the right to go to the annual meeting and vote for directors. The biggest thing they get is the pride of being an “owner” of the team and a stock certificate to hang on the wall of their “man cave.”
There is only one other non-profit stock corporation in the state – “The Bend,” a newly restored historic theatre and gathering place in West Bend.
My dad was secretary-treasurer of the Packers when they first made their finances public, the only team in the NFL to do so. A news guy, he was secretly in favor of opening up the books. My brother Tom was news director of Channel 11 in Green Bay and pushed the team for transparency.
It was a big step away from the Old Boys Club” mentality in Green Bay toward a professional, public organization. The open book policy was well received in the community.
That openness created a base of support when the club needed capital for improvements to keep up with the large market teams. There have now been six stock offerings when the team needed capital to stay competitive.
The unbelievably successful stock sale earlier this year drew an added 198,000 new shareholders at $300 apiece. The sale raised $66 million in new capital. The funds will be used in 2023 for renovated concession stands and new video scoreboards.
One of the least noted sections in the annual report was the contribution of $3 million to the Packers Foundation, which now has $46 million in assets.
Note, the club itself is a non-profit corporation, so it is entirely appropriate that it supports other non-profit causes in the state.
The Packers board has wisely focused on youth organizations in Wisconsin. It’s a great secondary mission to its primary mission of winning football championships.
Foundations often have policies of paying out at least 5% of assets per year. That would compute to an annual Packers payout of more than $2 million annually.
In addition to making more than $1 million in grants to more than 200 community charities last year, the team also gave of themselves. Players and managers, including CEO Mark Murphy, appeared at dozens of community building and fund raising events. No other team can match the generous spirit of the Green Bay Packers.
Knowing the power of leadership, Packers CEO Murphy and his wife Laurie recently announced a large donation of $250,000 for social justice causes.
The team has also taken a deep dive into economic development in Green Bay. Real estate and entertainment development next to Lambeau Field is its most visible venture. It has also supported 20 business startups whose entrepreneurs will help to revitalize and reinvent the state’s economy.
They are a throwback to the social entrepreneurs who started the Packers in 1919.
The organization, which drew more than 8000 shareholders to its annual meeting in Lambeau Field in July, sets an example for the rest of the league and players with its charitable identity. The Packers are not just about winning what, after all, is just a game.
They also promote good values: sportsmanship, discipline, healthy living, sound business and governance principles, public transparency, community togetherness, leadership in the state, a sense of honorable history, and help for people and groups in need.
It’s a proud 103 year-old legacy in a business that too often has the hallmark of greed first, football second and often not much else.
In that vein, the Packers could aim higher and set a goal of reaching $100 million in charitable foundation assets by 2030.
That’s a tall order, but so is the goal of winning another Super Bowl.