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The Packers’ Shareholders Meeting Is a Window Into NFL Funds.


GREEN BAY, Wis. — It takes a certain form of Packers fan to tailgate outside Lambeau Field at sunrise months before the team’s season kicks off. But Tom Rozum isn’t an bizarre fan: He’s a Packers shareholder who last month was preparing to attend the team’s annual shareholder meeting, a rite unique to the N.F.L.’s only publicly owned team.

After Bloody Marys with family and friends, Rozum joined greater than 8,000 other team shareholders within the stadium on a weekday morning last month to listen to the Packers’ president, general manager and board members address the state of the fabled franchise.

“We are able to see where our money goes to,” joked Rozum, who lives nearby and circles the stadium each day to get to 10,000 steps. “Today, you’ll be able to walk around such as you own the place.”

Rozum’s shares, and people of the team’s other 539,000 shareholders, pay no dividends and can’t be traded. Their only advantages are a likelihood to purchase shareholder-only swag and attending this two-hour annual meeting that could be a cross between a dutiful accounting of the team, a pep rally and an inside joke.

Though largely worthless, the shares let fans dream that they’ve a voice in a team that plays in a league dominated by billionaire team owners. Many fans on the meeting viewed the Packers not as America’s Team, because the flashy Dallas Cowboys call themselves, but as Americana’s Team, a franchise that harkens back to when many N.F.L. teams were based in smaller factory towns and Vince Lombardi won championships by deploying a brand of smash-mouth football that’s not en vogue.

The fact is that the fans’ willingness to pay $300 for a frameable certificate helps the Packers compete with teams in far larger cities with deep-pocketed owners who can spend freely on bells and whistles resembling top-rate facilities to lure the most effective free agents and stadiums to draw well-heeled fans.

“That is like Christmas in July,” said Keith Cox, 50, a recent shareholder who drove 15 hours from Clarkesville, Ga., together with his son, Jordan, 20, to attend the meeting.

“It’s a privilege to say I own a fraction of the team,” Jordan added.

On the meeting, Mark Murphy, the team’s president, told the shareholders to provide themselves a round of applause for helping raise $65 million in a stock sale in the course of the winter.

Murphy said the windfall will go toward the greater than $200 million being spent on recent infrastructure, including larger video boards, concourse renovations and a second generator to power all of it. “It’s not very sexy, is it? But we’d like it,” he joked. The players and coaches can even get a recent training facility with underground parking.

The decline of the stock and bond markets this 12 months has been painful. And it stays difficult to predict what’s in store for the long run.

Since the Packers are publicly owned, the team must release annual financial figures that provide a window into all 32 teams, much to the consternation of each other owner who tries to maintain prying eyes from learning the specifics of their wealth.

And this 12 months, the image is shiny. The Packers generated a record $579 million in revenue last 12 months, a 56 percent increase, as fans returned to games after pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

Nearly 60 percent of that revenue, or $347.3 million, got here from the Packers’ share of the league’s growing media and sponsorship contracts, that are divided amongst all 32 clubs. The shared revenue grew 12.3 percent last 12 months and is so robust that each team is guaranteed to show a profit no matter on-field performance because their biggest expense — player payroll — was capped at just $188 million last 12 months.

The ten-year labor agreement the N.F.L. signed with the players’ union in 2020 added a seventeenth regular season game, one other money stream. Latest revenue from sports gambling partnerships is beginning to pour in. The 2021 renewal of broadcasting rights agreements price greater than $100 billion over the subsequent decade has also began to kick in.

The financial outlook in pro football is so shiny that the worth of franchises continues a precipitous rise: The Denver Broncos this 12 months sold for $4.65 billion, a record for an American sports team.

“It just looks as if a blessed time to be an N.F.L. owner,” said Andrew Brandt, who negotiated player contracts for the Packers from 1999 to 2008 and now runs the sports law program at Villanova University. “Not only is the cash staggering, nevertheless it’s the length of the deals because if you spend money on something, you would like security in length. So yeah, it’s a booming business.”

The Packers, though, play in considered one of the league’s smallest television markets, so the team works harder than most to generate money at home. Local revenue hit $232 million last 12 months because of fans returning to Lambeau Field. With money piling back up, the team didn’t should dip into its $440 million reserve fund.

“That is type of our alternative to having a wealthy owner, nothing against wealthy owners,” Murphy said.

The Packers will not be shy about selling their history to achieve money that they do not need to share with other teams and that might be used to pay for their very own initiatives. Tours of Lambeau Field cost as much as $67, and the professional shop and 1919 Kitchen & Tap, a bar contained in the stadium, is usually packed. The Packers recently issued a four-volume history of the team that sells for $99.

Like many other N.F.L. teams which have developed industrial real estate around their facilities — resembling the Latest England Patriots, the Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams — the Packers are working with other firms to show the 45 acres immediately west of the stadium right into a residential and industrial development called Titletown, a nod to the team’s league-leading 13 championships.

When the project is fully accomplished, the Packers and their partners could have invested $300 million. To date, two-thirds of the 152 apartments are leased, including to some players, and the team has sold about half of the 50 or so townhouses it plans to construct. Nearly 80 percent of the office space is rented. The team doesn’t release specific financial figures, nevertheless it said the investments are actually profitable.

Among the many offices facing Lambeau Field are those of among the nearly two dozen tech start-ups wherein the team has invested. The Packers and Microsoft each contributed $5 million to a $25 million fund to incubate emerging businesses that concentrate on health care; sports media and entertainment; supply-chain technology; construction and agriculture; and the environment, areas that overlap with industries in Wisconsin. If the start-ups are acquired or go public, the Packers will receive a share of the proceeds.

Craig Dickman, a managing director at TitletownTech, the start-up incubator, said the Packers “have this unique ability to convene,” referring to the team having enlisted university professors and business mentors to assist the brand new businesses.

One in every of those businesses, Oculogica, created a tool, called an EyeBOX, that tracks eye movement to assist diagnose brain injuries, including concussions. The corporate, run by Rosina and Uzma Samadani, sisters who grew up near Madison, Wis., had its EyeBOX approved by the F.D.A. they usually are getting used by hospitals throughout the country.

The Samadanis said the Packers viewed their technology as a possible aid in treating the concussion crisis that has plagued football, and said it has wider applications in emergency rooms, on battlefields and elsewhere.

“I don’t know if there’s one other N.F.L. team that will spend money on a concussion diagnostic company,” Rosina Samadani said. “At the tip of the day, that basically says something about their being tied into the community and that they haven’t overlooked what’s really happening on the earth.”

Those ties to the community are what convinced Chris and Dodie Kocher to drive from Indianapolis to attend the meeting. They spent their honeymoon in Green Bay in 1979 and still love the hometown feel of the team. After their daughter bought them shares this winter, that they had to return to Lambeau Field to have fun.

“It’s a protracted drive, nevertheless it’s price it,” Chris said.

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