The Packers are the only community-owned franchise in American professional sports major leagues. Typically, a team is owned by one person, partnership, or corporate entity, i.e., a "team owner." The lack of a dominant owner has been stated as one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers have never been moved from the city of Green Bay, a city of only 102,313 people as of the 2000 census. While the team is operated as a non-profit organization, technically it is a for-profit corporation because under Wisconsin law non-profit corporations cannot issue stock.
By comparison, the typical NFL city has a population in the millions or higher hundred-thousands. The Packers, however, have long had a large following throughout Wisconsin and parts of the Midwest; in fact, for decades, the Packers played four (one pre-season, three regular-season) home games each year in Milwaukee, first at the State Fair Park fairgrounds, then at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers did not move their entire home schedule to Green Bay until 1995. County Stadium's replacement, Miller Park, then being planned, was always intended to be a baseball-only stadium instead of a multipurpose stadium.
Based on the original "Articles of Incorporation for the (then) Green Bay Football Corporation" put into place in 1923, if the Packers franchise were to have been sold, after the payment of all expenses, any remaining money would go to the Sullivan Post of the American Legion in order to build "a proper soldier's memorial." This stipulation was enacted to ensure the club remained in Green Bay and that there could never be any financial enhancement for the shareholders. At the November 1997 annual meeting, shareholders voted to change the beneficiary from the Sullivan-Wallen Post to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, which makes donations to many charities and institutions throughout Wisconsin.
In 1950, the Packers held a stock sale to again raise money to support the team. In 1956, area voters approved the construction of a new city owned stadium. As with its predecessor, the new field was named City Stadium, but after the death of founder Curly Lambeau, the stadium was renamed Lambeau Field on September 11, 1965.
Another stock sale occurred late in 1997 and early in 1998. It added 105,989 new shareholders and raised over $24 million, money used for the Lambeau Field redevelopment project. Priced at $200 per share, fans bought 120,010 shares during the 17-week sale, which ended March 16, 1998. The fifth sale in the team's history, which will finance further renovations to Lambeau Field, began on December 6, 2011 and will run through February 29, 2012. During this sale, 250,000 shares will be offered at $250 per share. Prior to the 2011 stock sale, there were 112,015 people, representing 4,750,934 shares, who could lay claim to a franchise ownership interest. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value (though private sales often exceed the face value of the stock), and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges. While newly purchased shares can be given as gifts, once ownership is established, transfers are technically allowed only between immediate family members. No shareholder may own over 200 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no individual can assume control of the club. To run the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders.
The team's elected president represents the Packers in NFL owners meetings, unless someone else is designated. During his time as coach, Vince Lombardi generally represented the team at league meetings in his role as general manager, except at owners-only meetings, where the team was represented by president Dominic Olejniczak.
Green Bay is the only team with this form of ownership structure in the NFL; such ownership is in direct violation of current league rules, which stipulate a limit of 32 owners of one team and one of those owners having a minimum 30% stake. However, the Packers corporation was grandfathered when the NFL's current ownership policy was established in the 1980s, and are thus exempt. The Packers are also the only American major-league sports franchise to release its financial balance sheet every year.
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