Packers plan fifth stock sale

MILWAUKEE -- Want to own a piece of the Green Bay Packers? The Super Bowl champions are about to give you a chance.

The Packers, the NFL's only publicly owned team, announced details Thursday about their first stock sale in 14 years and fifth in team history. The money will help pay for $130 million in renovations at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Own just one share and technically you're a team owner.

However, be aware that Packers stock isn't like regular stock. The value doesn't go up, there are no dividends and it has virtually no resale value. Stockholders do get voting rights, along with invitations to attend annual meetings where they can meet Packers executives, tour the Packers Hall of Fame and stick around for the kickoff of training camp.

There are currently 112,205 shareholders who own a total of 4.75 million shares. Another 250,000 shares will go on sale Tuesday, available by mail or at packers.com. In either case, the shares cost $250 plus a handling charge.

The sale runs through Feb. 29, subject to extension. Stock can only be purchased by individuals, not businesses, and there's a 200-share cap, a figure that includes any stock purchased during the last sale in 1997.

Newly purchased shares can be given as gifts. However, once ownership is established, a share can only be transferred within the immediate family.

Staughton Wade, 29, of Fort Wayne, Ind., said $250 was a reasonable price to pay for a Packers share. His favorite team is the winless Indianapolis Colts (0-11), and he said he welcomed a chance to buy into the league's only undefeated team, the Packers (11-0).

"It's a completely unique item," Wade said of the stock. "You can't get this anywhere else, and who knows when the next opportunity will be?"

While being a shareholder might come with some perks, it won't help you move up on the season-ticket waiting list, which has more than 81,000 names. Also, cheeseheads who live overseas are out of luck. The offering is limited to people with addresses in the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Soldiers and U.S. residents who are currently overseas will have to use their U.S. addresses.

All the money raised in the stock sale will go toward stadium renovations. The Packers plan to add thousands of seats and other amenities in time for the 2013 season. While other teams often ask taxpayers to help pay for building upgrades, the Packers will foot the entire bill themselves through the stock sale and private financing.

That's part of the reason that Joel Tchao, 38 a San Francisco 49ers fan from Fremont, Calif., said he would "definitely" buy a share next week.

"It's showing my appreciation for how they're run as a team," he said.

The Packers have been a publicly owned nonprofit corporation since 1923. The team held its first stock sale that year, followed by sales in 1935 and 1950 that helped keep the franchise afloat even as other small-markets teams were sinking.

At the time of the last sale, in 1997, then-team president Bob Harlan was looking for ways to cover stadium renovation costs. He recalled that other owners balked, worried that the Packers would use the money to compensate their coaches or improve their roster in a way other teams couldn't.

It was only after Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney argued in favor of the idea that the proposal passed. Rooney said the Packers deserved unanimous support because they were a vital part of NFL history. The subsequent vote was indeed unanimous.

Some 400,000 shares went on sale that year for $200 apiece. About 120,000 were sold, raising $24 million.

"We tried to come up with a figure that would be affordable to everyone," Harlan said. "We never got one complaint about them being too expensive."

There's been at least one complaint about the price this year. Michael Constantine, a Wisconsin native who now lives in Washington, had planned to buy a share this year when the rumored price was $200. When he found out the actual price Thursday, he said $250 was just over the edge of affordability.

"For me living in Seattle, I could spend $250 on tickets to go back to Wisconsin and go to a Packers game," said Constantine, 26. "For that price I'd be looking at other Packers-related activity I could use that money for."

Just as businesses have to enter a quiet period before going public, the Packers say they've been limited on how much they can say for now.

"We appreciate the interest that fans have expressed in our fifth stock offering," Mark Murphy, the team's president and CEO, said in a statement. "We are not yet in a position to fully discuss the offering. However, this information will answer some of the initial questions that we've received. We look forward to formally launching the offering next week."