NFL’s Packers offer stock, 1st time since ’97

MADISON, Wis. (AP) ? The Green Bay Packers’ latest stock sale got off to a fast start Tuesday as fans snatched up more than a thousand shares in the opening moments.

Packers President Mark Murphy said the team received 1,600 online orders in the first 11 minutes of the sale. The team website received so many hits some fans were complaining about the wait and Murphy found himself reassuring people the site was still working.

“It’s just a question of volume,” Murphy said. “Fans are excited about this opportunity. We just encourage fans to be patient.”

The team has put 250,000 shares up for sale at $250 apiece, plus a $25 handling charge per order. Murphy said the team hopes to generate at least $22 million to help defray the cost of a $143 million renovation project at Lambeau Field. Plans call for adding 6,700 additional seats, new high-definition video screens and a new entrance by 2013.

The sale marks the fifth time in the Packers’ 92-year history that the publicly-owned team has offered stock, though it’s really not an investment in the traditional sense. The value doesn’t increase, there are no dividends and it has virtually no resale value. But it does qualify the buy as team owner and conveys voting rights. It also qualifies the holder to attend the annual stockholder meeting at Lambeau each summer before training camp begins. They also get access to a special line of shareholder apparel.

Murphy said the timing for the sale is excellent given the Packers are coming off a Super Bowl victory and just clinched their division last weekend at 12-0.

“First and foremost, (buying stock is) a way for them to support and help the team,” Murphy said. “And it does give them bragging rights. They can say they’re the owners of a Super Bowl champion team.”

Before the sale, there were 112,205 shareholders who own a total of 4.75 million shares. The sale runs through Feb. 29, subject to an 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.

Being a shareholder won’t help when it comes to the season-ticket waiting list, which has more than 81,000 names. The offering was also 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 have to use their U.S. addresses.

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 14 years ago, 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.

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