Patronizing local and national media have made it their business to explainto me and about 200,000 other folks all over the world that we’re rubes. The reason? We plunked down $250 (plus $25 for a handling fee) to purchase a piece of the Green Bay Packers.
When the Packers, the nation’s only publicly owned major sports franchise, made an offering of stock on Dec. 6, the shares began flying off the shelves.The timing for the Packers couldn’t be better: The team was coming off a Super Bowl-winning season, the team was 12-0 and Christmas was about three weeks away. Add those things up, and you’ve got a lot of folks who were interested in becoming an NFL owner.
Truth be told, this is the second professional sports team I’ve owned.About 15 years ago, Dick Jacobs of the Cleveland Indians decided to open up his team and create a stock sale. The rules of baseball required that one person own a controlling interest in the team. The rest of team? Hey, he could give out shares until his eyes bled.
Most owners balked at this, as by making his franchise public, Jacobs was forced to open his books to anyone who wanted to see them. That’s not a good thing for a group of rich dudes who always plead poverty when they decide they’re not getting enough love or they want the taxpayers to fork over some cash for a new stadium. They’d rather open their jugular than open their books.
Still, Jacobs blew them off and offered stock for $15 a share. It paid no dividends, but it was a tradable commodity (unlike the Packer stock). In his book on the Indians, Terry Pluto recalled a conversation he had with one of the Indians’ PR guys about the sale.
The guy asked Pluto if he planned to buy stock. Pluto laughed it off. He said that the stock paid no dividends, held no voting power and was unlikely to increase in value. The PR guy told him, “That’s all true and I have no inside information here, but have you ever known Dick Jacobs not to make money on a deal?” The guy said Jacobs was a master at making a profit, even when no one else could see how he was going to do it.
A few months later, my birthday rolled around and I had forgotten I’d asked about the stock.
He knew a guy at work whose wife was a broker and was willing to forgo her fee. Dad and Mom bought me 10 shares, a bargain for them, as the stock had sunk to about $6 per share. When I opened my gifts, I had to open them in a specific order. I got an Indians shirt, an Indians glass and an Indians bumper sticker.
“You need this stuff,” Dad said, “since you’re an owner…”
The last gift was the stock. It had my name on it, 10 shares and a beautiful drawing of Jacobs Field on it.
Over the next few months, I received “important guy” paperwork from the team. I got prospectus info, voting rights info and all that stuff. I think I voted on two things as an owner, if I remember correctly. Of course, my vote didn’t count. Jacobs was still running the team.
Somewhere around 1999 or 2000, I got a certified letter in the mail. It explained to me that Jacobs was selling the team and that the new owner, the Dolan family, was taking the company private. As part of that deal, the team was creating a forced sale of stock.
This basically meant I had two options: Sell the stock to the Dolans at an established price based on what they paid for the team or don’t and my stock would become invalid. The price they established was about $25 per share.
I didn’t want to sell. I wanted to own part of the team. That was the whole point of this exercise in the first place. However, as I wouldn’t be owning the team either way, I sold and made a pretty nice profit. Not nearly as nice as Jacobs did, but still it was a good deal, even if I didn’t want to make it.
To help salve the wound, the team agreed to cancel the certificates of stock and send them back to the former owners. I sent mine in, got it back and it remains on my wall to this day. If the team reopened its offering tomorrow, I’d buy again in a heartbeat.
Which brings me back to the Packer stock…
Thank you, oh all knowing and wise financial investment guys, who are trying to help me understand that I won’t make money off of this deal. I’ve got between four and six college degrees (depending on how you count them), I’ve resurrected two financially bereft student media outlets and I’ve even managed to not trade in my cow for some magic beans. I think that when I read that I get no dividends, I can’t sell it for a profit (or even to get my money back) and that this is not to be viewed as a financial investment, I’m pretty well versed in how this isn’t like buying Yahoo! Stock.
In other words, I’m a lot better off with my investment.
Also, thanks for pointing out that I have no real say as to the direction of the team or any real, tangible voting rights. Just so you know, I’ve got other forms of stock in my retirement portfolio and still pretty much have no voting rights. It’s not like the CEO of MicroSoft is thinking, “New version of Windows for this year? Hang on, let’s ask Doc about this…” Unless you’re buying a shitload of stock, your vote doesn’t count. Even then, it probably doesn’t count. While I’ll likely kid Mark Murphy (the Packers CEO) at the Lombardi Open this year about what I want him to do (since I’m his boss and all), I have no delusions of grandeur.
Also, thanks for helping me out, Sports Guy, by knocking the fact that this money will not get me tickets to the games, a Super Bowl ring or anything else.I do, however, get access to a shareholders’ meeting, a stock certificate (suitable for framing) and access to a “special owner’s line of merchandise.” Even if I got none of those things, that doesn’t make me an idiot. Just because the Packers are issuing these allegedly worthless pieces of paper to help expand the stadium and improve the facilities, that doesn’t make them crooks.
The Packers are special, and I say that not only as a lifelong fan and an owner, but also as a matter of fact. The public owns the team. No one person can have massive sway over the direction of the franchise.
This is a team that, unlike the Raiders, the Ravens/Browns, the Colts, the Cardinals, the Rams and a dozen other professional sports franchises, won’t ever hold its fans hostage and then flee to another city. Even though the team has taken public money at various points in its tenure, it has done its best to look to other ways of raising revenue, like this stock sale. Unlike the Miller Park debacle in this state decades earlier, you won’t see the Packers waking up state senators in the middle of the night to change their vote on a stadium bill and foisting tax hikes upon residents in multiple counties.
What this sale did was say, “Hey, if you want a piece of the team and you want to help us out with some renovations, here’s how we’re going to do it.” When the Brewers constructed Miller Park on the backs of the taxpayers, people went nuts and rightly so.And, oddly enough, research has shown that publicly funded stadiums are shitty investments for the public.Go figure.
As for the Packers, I supported the team, I supported the expansion and I’m fine with that. No one forced any of these naysaying assholes to pony up money for this. Consider it a refreshing change from how these things are normally handled.If you live in any of the areas listed in this link, you’re paying for your team to stick around and you don’t own shit. And, if the owner doesn’t get enough money, get the perfect stadium or get a cookie, he/she can pack up and leave and you’re still stuck with the bill.
And I’m an idiot?
So, thank you, omnipotent media members, talking heads, concerned citizens and other Debbie Downers out there who feel it is their job to mock my choice of purchase. I appreciate your dimwitted concern and your complete lack of understanding. I know I’m not getting what you perceive to be a commensurate benefit, but trust me, there are far worse ways to spend a couple hundred dollars when it comes to a football purchase.
If you decide to come around to my way of thinking, I’ll see you at the owners meeting.
If not, feel free to STFU.
Minority Owner, Green Bay Packers